Liz Grisaru

“Three Sonnets, after Diane Seuss” by Liz Grisaru

Three Sonnets, after Diane Seuss


I gave no time to grief. I let debit after debit
rack up in the back-room ledger book
while I displayed the front office P&Ls
balanced like twins on a see-saw.
Wouldn’t you know, the crank came to collect:
cold-cocked me, crashed like a thunderclap
on a small boat at sea, and for reasons so flimsy
a house of cards would not have swayed.
My tallies fell as tired petals fall
from stems stuffed in a bin; what was I thinking?
My credits were all fictions, the uncounted debits
woodworms making dinner of my house’s sagging frame.
It was just some words, some words I said – “mother” and “sing” –
that threw me to the dust and tore my little sail to shreds.


Then there is kissing. I have kissed some, not enough,
and not as often as now I think I should have done.
I have kissed those whose kisses left me careless
also others I had assumed were beyond my range.
Those kisses flooded me with weird surprise
as if lips on lips could pull the oceans of the body
toward an illuminated moon. Now, like the moon,
my mother’s hair gleams white. I kissed her last night
the way a mother kisses a child before turning away
and turning out the light, left her on her own in a room
no explaining could ever make not strange. Of those kisses
there should have been thousands, pointless to count,
scattered unself-consciously as rain:
that’s where the carelessness should have come in.


Things feel universal; the trivial is universal; this is to say,
the plum in the crisper drawer, so cold and so delicious,
is the only one anyone will ever sneak away. This is to say, too,
the old woman in the hospital bed is the only mother
and I the only child, to say that strolling along my suburban street
is a holy trek, a pilgrimage; the stone in my shoe every stone
and mine every limping foot; and also those dandelions
erupting through the pavement cracks the insistent pain
of life birthing itself everywhere, despite everything. And to say
the thought of the setting moon, the slow fade of a chord
once played, the left-over leaves that need sweeping from the patio,
all these are all messengers of the silence everywhere:
silence the old woman frets against, the piano player yearns to fill,
the green shoots defy from their dark place below the pavement.


Liz Grisaru works for New York State in renewable energy policy and is based in Albany, New York. She grew up and went to college in Boston, Massachusetts, and lived in New York City and Brooklyn for sixteen years before moving upstate, where she and her wife raised two children. She had a several-decade hiatus in writing as she pursued her professional and family life, but in recent years has been drawn back to poetry as both a reader and a writer.

2 thoughts on ““Three Sonnets, after Diane Seuss” by Liz Grisaru”

  1. Carrie Hirschfield

    I love love love these sonnets, so loving, compassionate and evocative! Keep writing like this Liz!


    Very little carelessness here (“that’s where the carelessness should have come in”)! Love seeing your poems here.

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