Gravity and Grace – Alan Shapiro

Gravity is odorless as God, and like God is everywhere, invisible
and weightless, inside and between what in its absence could have
no inside or between, no mass or form to get free or give in to it

In a vacuum there is no falling, or if there is, because everything big
and small is falling at the same speed, at the same time, you can’t tell
falling from floating.

In hospice, my father cried like a baby in a wet crib, eyes shut,
inconsolable, because I couldn’t be his mother, or, if I could, could
only be the sleep-deprived postpartum mother who can’t lift
her massive body from the quicksand of exhaustion, too sunk in
heaviness to do anything about what by then she only wanted to be
rid of, whispering shhh, shhh, shhh to his runaway accelerating O
O Os as if to slow them to a canter, a trot, a standstill,

and when his heart stopped and the busily communicating cells
inside the hand that held mine forgot what they were saying, or
that they were even cells, or that the hand had ever been a hand,
unballing its viselike fist from around my fingers, gravity

was all that held body to bed, bed to hospice, hospice to earth.

Its micro-grip tightened on every subatomic bit of every particle
there was, on everything I had pretended right up to then it wasn’t
pulling down.

When I stood up my father was the force I stood up against.
Invisible and weightless as the piss stink rising from the bed, which
like a baby he had wet, the inside of his thighs were rash red, his
grizzled ball sack even redder between the scorched white pubic

Only once the odor had spread everywhere and covered everything
could you not smell it. Not smelling it was grace, which is the
opposite of gravity, from which there’s no escape.

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