How They Come Back to Us

Naomi Thiers

Those who have died—
their roots still spread,
their fires still spread, smoking underground.

They emerge as tree roots will, bursting out of earth
far from the hollow where we once dropped in a memory
so long ago it’s only a flash, something
that once happened to a paper doll.

What comes back full-color are faces,
pieces of faces: Grandma’s powdered cheek,
red fuzz at Kris’s temple, Patty’s eye the bare-blue

of skies after rain. And there never-replacable voices,
their vocabulary: Sit with me once’t.
How you doing there, Papa-San? I wouldn’t
have that, Rosie, I just wouldn’t have that!

Sparks of their movements blaze—how
they danced, say: Karen’s arms twirling overhead,
Chris’s plant-and-stomp in Birkenstocks

Their pet ideas, coined metaphors float
in the margins as we read—as Jacklyn’s motto
was suddenly there on a brick in Chincoteague:
Toujours le mot, stamped with her signature.

Like creeper vines shooting
beneath smooth lawns, bursting out to
wind around trees minding their own business

the dead still come to decorate
strange places with their unmistakable shapes,
their sudden air bracing, their unseen
heat beneath keeping us warm.

Naomi Thiers grew up in California and Pittsburgh, but her chosen home is Washington-DC/Northern Virginia. She is the author of three poetry collections: Only The Raw Hands Are Heaven (WWPH), In Yolo County, and She Was a Cathedral (both Finishing Line Press.) Her poems, fiction, and essays have been published in Virginia Quarterly Review, Poet Lore, Colorado Review, Grist, Sojourners, and other magazines. Former poetry editor of Phoebe, she works as an editor for Educational Leadership magazine and lives in a condo on the banks of Four Mile Run in Arlington, Virginia.