Victoria Gransee


after Stephen Dunn

I love the distance, which isn’t real until it’s uncovered,
unrolled before me, a carpet of steep steps and a tongue twist.
I love the places I’ve been, but know I’ll never return to
except maybe in dream, in fantasy,
in the kind of memory that persists.

I love the kind of thing I’ll ask my mom about
right before bed, or on the road, when
I peek around the corner of the fireplace,
when I say “I have a place,” and I tell her
what I remember, and my mother’s brain
is my brain, so she’ll tell me where I am,
she’ll reorient me, pull me out of memory
and back into Time, into What’s Real.

I love that I’m still looking for the restaurant,
maybe some roadside brewery, with
a bubblegum pig swung from the ceiling.
When pigs can fly! I think I’m in Seattle,
I think I’m young and it’s warm; they sell
hot dogs and beer, maybe an apple juice
but we’re not staying long enough
to justify ordering drinks.

I love that little town in British Columbia,
the one tourists call “Ukee,” like some tiny
guitar nestled in the bay. I love the touch
aquarium, the one I thought to take you to,
just for the laugh, even though we’ll probably end
up in the windy city, at the Shedd, where you’ll make
eye contact with a beluga and swear you speak

their language. I love the Raven Lady, patron statue
of the town that gifted me my skimboarders,
my old stories, personal myths, one I wrote years ago
at a summer home, where romance vesselizes
the pacific gothic, where a moment of horror is background to our protagonists
and the night they move the furniture to dance.

I love a place called Roche Harbor,
which I remember only by a clear tube
of plastic animals, by the tail of an orca spelling out
the sign of our hotel, by a white fridge
and a wind-up pony that leapt across the table
into the maw of my father; I stashed it under
the bathroom sink at the new house.

I love a cracked tennis court, the kind of climate
that indicates Florida, the “Hurting Things” state.
An adobe apartment, a dinner humming in the microwave,
I have a brother; My brother is here
walking with my mother, they’re syncing strides
as I try, I try; I do.

I love trying to catch up.
I love that house in Sedona, the one that births Art,
that place my parents return to every spring,
victorious. Generous, teaching, Redstone is Divinity,
God is a poetic device, I love the memory
of myself standing fifteen feet to their backs.
We’re walking; They’re walking away.

I love that September we spent in the South
of Michigan, where my wired earbuds
whirled in the rain, where the wind took down
the tree, blocking the road on our way out of the past
thirteen years. Where I packed a week of clothes
and we stayed for two months, where I was reduced
to the kind of spirit you see in the woods, wearing a dress

with little daisies, touching the lake and dipping
the hem in the foam. Suddenly religious, as most
abandoned people are, grabbing a big stick
and fending off fake demons, beloved by
fake gods. I love the night I took that dress
into chlorine, left my mascara on, allowed it to run.
A simulated Ophelia, I was tired of being
findable; I wanted to be found.
I love that they took me home, eventually.

I love the woods on that lot, how the telephone wires
gave me places to scream; I grew up with space to run
and haunted houses that are now torn down.

I love my ghost stories, each one, each haunting,
With the catwalk, a pulley, blue bucket, and jaguar plush.
Street name “Bagley, Bagley” just like Bagel, like Green Day.
The red velvet cake, a Seattle community of Jewish mothers.
A gated community missing only a gate, but in possession of a pool.
The dwarf house, where I was eight and still too tall for the light switch.
The duplex with the Girl. A place I go to mourn, a wallowing ground.
The federal courthouse, atheist cult – adjacent penthouse where I spend
a lot of time
speaking to the stars.
“Hill House” in the Indiana woods, where ghosts consume the basement bar.
The floodland sur the state park. The mudroom with its space heater.
I love a good suitcase.

"The Hoshen Breastplate," by Lauren Frame. Digital illustration. Box with 12 equal-sized rectangular compartments 3 across by 4 down with faceted jewels. In the foreground, gold linked rings on chain. Script in Hebrew above and below. Colors of gold, red, yellow, green, blue, indigo, purple, orange, silver, teal, brown, gray, black, and white.
“The Hoshen Breastplate,” by Lauren Frame

Charles VII, Future King of France, 1440

after Gabrielle Calvocressi

She wasn’t a savior when she knelt before me,
eyes trained on the floor, hair dark as night,
awash in the name of my own godmother. Joan.

When she spoke, she trembled not,
though to be there, to speak of God and virgins
of visions and providence in my presence, what a feat.

What role have God in this matter of men?
Sometimes I wonder who made her this saint.
Was it me? Her? The men of my company? Poitiers?

Giustiniani, the Venetian, shouting that Saint Catherine has come again?
The English, painted red and red again, hearing her diction
like cannon fire “Allez-vous-en en Angleterre.”

Allez-vous-en, Allez-vous-en, can a man really retreat
when faced with the idea of France? I cannot, and
Joan says I need not. I am King. She will carry her own

banner, siege cities under my name.
It’s an odd scene painted by this peasant,
seventeen years of spinning wool, beating

a bible with her mother, finding God
in words and his servants in her dreams.
And who was to say if it was the truth?

Who was to say but me, who watched her face
like the rising dawn as she stared right through me,
right to the mortal marrow, declaring me

In command of the armed virgin
meant to save us.

Victoria Gransee (@vgransee) is a Wisconsin-based writer fascinated by memory, self, and the divine.