Graduation

by Maria Nazos
Featured Art: Fern Alley – Felicity Gunn

As my father hands me a bouquet of roses
dyed the shade of a dozen sinking suns, my mother grasps
his steady arm, teetering. Her body
has begun its slow revenge for what it begrudged
all along, and she’s afraid to walk since her last fall, which
snapped her hip in half. My father is tired
of holding her up. He scolds, Just take it. Her hand shakes
as she holds the iPhone to get a photo
of me in my mortarboard and hood. Let go
and take it, he says, and she tries a one-handed
snapshot, her trembling arm still looped through his.

I stitch a smile across my face. The phone flashes.
As she grips his wrist, I can hear him in Greek,
the language reserved for anger and, once, for sex.
The language they speak and still think
I don’t understand. Can I live this way, Tia? he asks.

I clutch my bouquet to my chest, trying
to pretend these flowers aren’t lopped off at the stems.
Trying to move into the next phase of realization
that love is unsteady on its feet. That two people
can resent each other, but care for their daughter
and each other enough to stay put.
Refusing to wilt
into that place I’d go as a child—when I’d hear
their fights and retreat to the backyard to play
with cats, praying to make something else of myself, however
small—I stand tall.
How can I live like this?
he says to her again. Still, I’m posing, smiling
into the face of their slow decline.
And all three of us trying, best we can,
to hold each other shakily, and steadily upright.


Maria Nazos’s writing been published in The New Yorker, The Tampa Review, Mid-American Review, and elsewhere. She is the author of A Hymn That Meanders, (Wising Up Press, 2011) and the chapbook Still Life (Dancing Girl Press, 2016). She has received fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and scholarships from The Sewanee Writers’ Conference. A recent graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s English Ph.D. program, she can be found at marianazos.com.

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