A STUDY

Aimee R. Thompson

Hypothesis #48

Gracie doesn’t speak to me because

I yelled at her for the careful way

she clicked her teeth when she chewed.

I couldn’t explain why, but one day

it caused my throat to tighten, and I believed

I would die. I would apologize if I thought

my sensitivity would go away,

if I thought I could make her feel better.

But she still must eat, and I still

can’t stand to let her.






 

Hypothesis #31 

 

Gracie doesn’t speak to me because

I believed her when she said she was an alien.

She was the mushroom-eating, late-sleeping,

messy one. Was it such a stretch

to think she’d come from someplace that wasn’t Earth?

She knew I accepted almost

anything she told me, so if I later refused

to hear truth, it was only because

I didn’t want to understand

that I had been deceived.






 

Hypothesis #19 

 

Gracie doesn’t speak to me because

I ate the sandwich Mother made for me. Gracie

drove and stared straight ahead, refusing to stop.

I’d felt guilty. I wasn’t on Mother’s side.

I only took the sandwich because I was hungry

and because I knew that if we didn’t eat it

the meat would spoil, and I would feel bad

about that too. But both of them

viewed the incident as some sort of battle.

Gracie glared from the corner of one eye

while Mother stroked my neck victoriously.

Neither noticed my clenched fists, my attempt

to shrink into the seat, to fly away, to evaporate.






 

Hypothesis #62 

 

Gracie doesn’t speak to me because

I told her there wasn’t a right way

to slice a strawberry, that she

wasn’t the only one who knew

how to handle a knife. Then, I’d taken the blade

right out of her hand, the toothed metal

smiling at the invitation for strife.

Immediately, I felt the dread 

of what I had done, reached

into my pocket for coins.

But for all the pennies I’ve given her,

the silence between us

just won’t be bought.

PROCESS

This series was born of very particular circumstances in my life. I had newly located to the other side of the country and, before I had even gotten fully settled, a chasm opened up in my family, revealing the dysfunction that had seethed all my life under the surface. I had been only nominally aware of that turmoil despite being very familiar with its effects, and my distance from the rest of my family meant I was largely excluded from both the fall out and the conversation. It was as if a death had occurred, but no one would grieve with me or even acknowledge that the deceased had existed. The personas born here of Gracie and the narrator were my way of processing that isolation and of wrestling with this new realization of the trauma I too had endured.


The series began as a single long poem that I rewrote countless times before finally finding this shorter form that allowed me to observe the problem from multiple sharply focused angles. I think I’ve written more than a dozen of these “Gracie” poems, as I call them, including several more poems in the “Hypothesis” format. Why Gracie? I honestly don’t know; she entered my writing fully defined and demanding to be known by that name.

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