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Florine Stettheimer, ‘La Fete A Duchamp’
Florine Stettheimer, ‘La Fete A Duchamp’

BooksApril 19, 2024

The Friday Poem: ‘Mitochondrial Problem’ by Evangeline Riddiford Graham

Florine Stettheimer, ‘La Fete A Duchamp’
Florine Stettheimer, ‘La Fete A Duchamp’

A new poem by Evangeline Riddiford Graham.

Mitochondrial Problem


It was long drive to Kansas for the man
and his dog but you have to understand

he said She doesn’t fly.
Which calls to mind not carsick shitting

barking or whining but a dog who chooses
not to as well as all the dogs who do fly

maybe what they’re dreaming of when they lie on carpet or grass
limbs spread ready to at any moment levitate

like that figure in Florine Stettheimer’s painting of a birthday
picnic for Marcel Duchamp a suited man who lies face

-down in yellow lawn with the flat
determination of one about to lift off.



The family dog has been not himself a bit
off for ten days now our mother mentions in the group chat.

Her daughters are in other countries and sometimes
when there have been no new messages she posts a photo of the dog

whose face is always sad. Our father says You have to understand
the dog has a mitochondrial problem

this is why he keeps looking for bodies
of water to flop in mournfully watching us why he can’t work

up more than a trickle of urine, why our mother watches
for his suddenly dying. Our father says to me

You and I aren’t so crazy when it comes to animals
meaning look at the rest of this family.



In dogs and women et cetera mitochondria generate
the energy for different cell functions—

sort of like a cell’s ambition or drive
passed down on the female line. Florine and sisters Ettie

Carrie unmarried lived with their mother, rich, one of nine
sisters, sort of a mitochondrial fortress. At the picnic

Marcel arrives in a sports car brick red
as two tree trunks it’s his thirtieth! Later in life

Carrie wore tiaras and jeweled
dog collars. By definition mitochondrial DNA

is a point of difference between daughter
and father. Mr. Stettheimer departed for Australia.



Or maybe the reason the dog is sick: everyone is secretly
feeding him. Our mother says he’s so popular

people phone to ask if he wants a walk.
I’m sorry says our mother he’s out right now but I think he’s free

tomorrow. So far only our father has joined the group call
he turns on the video to show me the garden getting more pixelated

with each step when two shy girls walk into the video
and ask can they borrow the dog. Two sisters: our father

has told me all about them the street girls he calls them
lovely manners. Our mother says You have to understand one

neighbour buys the girls shampoo and knickers and
everyone is secretly feeding them.



The street girls would like to borrow the dog but also
the bigger sister steps forward determined

We found this bird with a broken wing she holds it out
wrapped in a grape leaf. Sorry

girls says my father we can’t do anything for it. Then he asks
as if only I can hear him Was I too harsh?

Hold on I say why don’t you give them a shoe box
and sugar water in an eyedropper like when I found the baby

thrush inside the chopped down macrocarpa
without a mother. But didn’t it die? he asks me.

Yes I say. It died in the night. But all afternoon
I took care of it.


The Friday Poem is edited by Chris Tse. Submissions are now being accepted until 21 April 2024. Please send up to three poems in a PDF or Word document to

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