Category Archives: Kelly Grotke

Pebbles by Kelly Grotke

He picked up the three pebbles that lay on the desk, cupping them in his hand and rattling them around like dice as he stared out the window.

She’d accused him once of caring more about things than people. It was an argument. He thinks of this as he shakes the pebbles. But it wasn’t true, no. Why had it come to be about truth and right and wrong and would you just stop it, stop, stop it now or I’ll….and then you….and in his gut, even here and now, he could still feel the bends and distortions of time that had begun pulling at their words until language itself threatened to unravel, even now and how much later is that than before, he wonders, and have I been gutted.

He had cared about things. Not more than people, no, not more than her. But by then there’d been neither time nor will to explain, and in truth he only understood himself much later. Remember this, the things said to him, this will be the future and the good, forever and ever, and we will walk upon the beach and the sun shone bright and warm on your hair and the smell of your skin yes and I touch you and the happiness and let me in, please let me in and now my soul is shaking again like these pebbles from the shore of some distant ocean and everything falls from my hands.

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Pebbles by Kelly Grotke

He picked up the three pebbles that lay on the desk, cupping them in his hand and rattling them around like dice as he stared out the window.

She’d accused him once of caring more about things than people. It was an argument. He thinks of this as he shakes the pebbles. But it wasn’t true, no. Why had it come to be about truth and right and wrong and would you just stop it, stop, stop it now or I’ll….and then you….and in his gut, even here and now, he could still feel the bends and distortions of time that had begun pulling at their words until language itself threatened to unravel, even now and how much later is that than before, he wonders, and have I been gutted.

He had cared about things. Not more than people, no, not more than her. But by then there’d been neither time nor will to explain, and in truth he only understood himself much later. Remember this, the things said to him, this will be the future and the good, forever and ever, and we will walk upon the beach and the sun shone bright and warm on your hair and the smell of your skin yes and I touch you and the happiness and let me in, please let me in and now my soul is shaking again like these pebbles from the shore of some distant ocean and everything falls from my hands and my tears come like waves.

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In Sidon by Kelly Grotke

In Sidon, there is a mound of ancient debris high as a fifteen-story building, chiefly comprised of broken shells belonging to the family Muricidae.

Long ago and far beyond the realm of fact, a dog, possibly even the dog of Hercules himself, was walking along the Mediterranean coast when it happened upon a cluster of these shellfish or shellworms, as they have also been called in earlier times. Whether for hunger or play we shall never know, but the dog bit into this peaceably beached assembly, crackling the creatures’ coverings between its teeth and thereby dying all the pale fur ‘round its muzzle the most sublime and wondrous shade of purple. And so it was that the color later reserved for royalty and priests was first worn by a dog.

To make one gram of this precious dye, over ten thousand of these modestly-sized, unambitious sea dwellers had to be sacrificed, which makes of the mound in Sidon a great tomb and memorial to those beings whose color blends so minutely with the fleece that not even all great Neptune’s waves, not even his entire sea, could e’er part them. A true wonder of nature, and an inspiration for human industry.

Ernest Renan viewed the mound during his sojourn excavating in the Levant at the behest of Napoleon III. One can imagine him wearing a purple cravate, if not precisely murex-purple, since it was a time of great freedom and equality, with the color available to master and servant alike.

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Sangatsu by Kelly Grotke

You may say a crowd

Surges and ebbs like water,

But the crowd is gone.

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On The Conscience of Kings by Kelly Grotke

The matching pair of bronze statues, each of a son transfixed in the act of hurling a blade toward the neck of his father, disappeared sometime during the French Revolution.

They had adorned opposite sides of a bridge in Ghent, a bridge that no longer exists, but must have once since it left so many names behind. We know Albrecht Dürer walked upon it, in early April 1521. It was a place of execution then, a place where some lives remained forever halted in midstream, but if Dürer reflected on this all too human coincidence between the natural and metaphysical worlds, he left no trace of it; in his diary, he simply notes having seen the twin patricides in passing.

There are two stories about the events commemorated by these absent statues. In both, a father and son are condemned to die, though we know nothing of their crime; in both, the king decides that one may be absolved, if only he agrees to serve as executioner of the other.

In one version, the father immediately rejects this diabolical bargain, which the son then quickly accepts. As the son heaves the axe toward his father’s neck, the blade turns suddenly upon his own, killing him outright.

In the other, the father demands to be sacrificed so that his son might live, but as the son swings the axe to perform the horrible deed, the blade breaks in two. After this miraculous event, both are pardoned.

The king’s motivations remain unknown.

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All the Peace and Fraternity of the Free World by Kelly Grotke

It’s a true story, I read it in Life magazine soon after the war, in between the ads. One of the ads was for some new packaging that would keep Mr. Lobster moist and happy all the way from Maine to your table.

I suppose I remember that because of the contrast, y’know? All that post-war confidence fizzling up like champagne, champagne and lobsters, that’s what the world was going to be and we were going to lead the charge into some bright new future of peace and prosperity.

The story was about a fellow who liked lobster, he liked all the good things money can buy, and he wasn’t middle-class American respectable about it either. Kept a few mistresses, sure. So far so good. Our countries were friends. I dunno. Seems like somebody was getting fucked. I mean, they had laws down there but this guy’s laws were so crazy that you could be put in prison for saying the summer there was awful hot. Defamation, right?

So yeah, he’s heard that someone said a few words against him here or there, so he has the guy picked up. Tells his men to have some fun with the poor bastard for a couple of days. And afterwards he has the body dropped off to the family, all wrapped up like some bloody entrails in butcher’s paper. And then he goes to the house. To comfort them.

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Because the first bitter taste of grief is never preparation enough by Kelly Grotke

We stand beside each other and your shoulder brushes against mine like a wing and I remember as it passes how long ago, a monarch butterfly with five legs found me and stayed for two days when I was very small, holding on to my hand as I took it out to feed on the yellow flowers my mother had ringed around the house, flying back again to my waiting outstretched finger for us to go inside, my improbable friend but aren’t all friendships improbable in the wide eternal expanse of time where beginnings and endings are the illusions left us in the wake of passing motion? And how the next day I found him, angled gently upon the carpet, beautiful, still, and departed, that was the first time and no, not again please no, I can’t tell you this, not now and not ever because who would be the butterfly, and who the child? I could obscure the heavens with platitudes, and still want to say more, the game isn’t over, the money’s not gone, I know the winter snow is deep, tempting and petal-soft but spring is coming soon and the music still plays on, you are listening to it now as your face turns to mine with a smile and suddenly, so clearly, you take flight, mute as a butterfly I stand and watch the sounds of it all lift you up and if a soul can take leave of its troubles then you have just now.

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