At Stanley Bay

By Gregory Djanikian b. 1949 Gregory Djanikian

Alexandria, 1954

When my grandfather came back   
from his swim, battered this time
by the treacherous currents, the rocks   
jutting out of the water like knives,

my sister and I sidled into his room   
thinking the house too quiet
and saw him like a hurt beast
standing by his bed, naked, wet.

My grandmother was kneeling, toweling his calves,   
my mother was mixing a poultice.
“Look at his bruises,” my sister was whispering,   
“and the veins like swollen rivers.”

We kept inching toward him
while my grandmother daubed him with cream   
and wound him in a bedsheet
and made him odder than any dream of him.   
“Children,” she said turning toward us,   
“let him sleep, this is your grandfather.”

We hurried away, having said   
not a word to him, nor he to us,
though our eyes had never left his body   
and we ached to touch him, brush   
our fingertips along the webs of cuts   
and discolorations in his pale skin.

All day we wished he would somehow rise
like a true ghost, the sheet ruffling in the drafts;   
“Grandfather,” we whispered at his closed door,   
“come to us, bring us your stories,”

but when the last lights were put out that night   
and the dark spread about us like a purple bruise   
we wished we had never wished what we had,
every waft of wind had a rustle to it
and the sound of water was deep in our ears

and by morning, he had become for us
in his shut room the ghostliest of imaginings,   
and keeping our distance, we waited   
only for his door to suddenly swing forth   
and reveal him standing either healed   
and smiling and unstrange, or what seemed   
likelier to us now, about to change our lives.

Gregory Djanikian, “At Stanley Bay” from About Distance. Copyright © 1995 by Gregory Djanikian. Used by permission of Carnegie Mellon University Press.

Source: About Distance: Poems (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1995)

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Poet Gregory Djanikian b. 1949

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Living, Health & Illness, Relationships, Home Life, Family & Ancestors, Growing Old

 Gregory  Djanikian


Gregory Djanikian’s collections include So I Will Till the Ground (2007), Years Later (2000), Falling Deeply into America (1989), and The Man in the Middle (1984). His poems have also appeared in numerous magazines and journals, such as Poetry, the Nation, and the American Scholar, as well as on television, when he was featured on PBS’s NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.

His work explores, among other things, the private and public . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Health & Illness, Relationships, Home Life, Family & Ancestors, Growing Old

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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