Winnowing by Emily Teltsworth

              from John Cheever’s Goodbye, My Brother


The coast was terminal

naked, unshy, beautiful.


The beach is a vast unrecognizable

broken thing.


Wild grapes grow profusely all over islands

where nothing else grows but course grass.


I don’t have any more time to waste here

with nets on the cliffs filled with balloons and fish hooks.


He occurred to this baleful and uninhabited beach,

a goodbye that drank too much.


I am always washing or mending or ironing clothes

every word of flirtation was aimed at him.


Our laundry always smelled of wine

I felt sick.


Our house is fifty-two years old

too old to be frivolous or destructive.


Find even the inshore water green and thick and cloudy

come as you wish you were.


Naked women walk out of the sea

before the tiresome winter.


Our house is going to fall into the sea

a symbol for more bruises turning blue.
He said he was claimed for baptism

I play along for the sake of courtesy.


Like ruptures standing on a cliff above a sea

I’m going to sell my goodbyes.


The abuse seemed to reach a crescendo

he hit me with a stone—something—on the beach.


There were a number of goodbyes dressed in white

no church spire at the end of our sails.


I saw his plain face magnified into ugliness

went from one broken thing to another.


Continuous detonations of the tide

like fabulously unhappy little fishes.


His choice influenced mine

I swung a piece of the moon heavy with sea water.


I am as good as anybody

saying to the sea there are obdurate truths.


I scrub and iron with fervor

set a homeward course by the gasoline barge.


I have jobs everywhere

like coming out of the pantry with a full glass of gin.



 Emily is a graduate of Susquehanna University with a BA in Writing and a BA in Publishing. She has work published in HOOT, Rock & Sling, The Apeiron Review, and Stone Canoe. When she isn’t writing, she can be found reading fantasy novels or watching Top Ten videos on Youtube.