I answer the phone and
their memories spill out of the ether.
Its not enough to grieve but to remember together
what she was like or
what he said or
how forgiveness is as hard as the long dark night.
It has all changed us at a molecular level,
all those things we did,
How did we know to place our hands to that work,
how did we summon the courage to lift
and carry that burden-
the weight was great but not unwelcomed.
We rose each morning and put our hearts to the test-
until, weeping with the stars,
we lay just for a moment before we were called
again and again and again.
Love sustains and
Will exceeds what we know
and that which we cannot comprehend.
Those things that we were called to do
changed our DNA
until suffering is no longer feared
and death seems somehow diminished
in the light of an autumn afternoon.
She’ll get her back up if you ask her about it –
that life before
when she left home and ran around.
But she never says a word
and shoos you away from the porch
if you keep on pesterin’ her.
We all know the story
but never get to hear the juicy details
of those high livin’days.
And the stories of when she came home-
bruised and barefoot,
no better than the pigs in the sty.
They ran all the way down the road
past the mailboxes
when they saw her-
wrapped her in their best cotton sheets
and covered her hair in honey.
Calling all the neighbors,
they butchered their prize hog
and we ate like kings,
all the sweet meat and greens and potato salad
we could hold.
And, my, oh my, that coconut cake.
But that’s not what I want to tell you.
Ever since then
she’s kept to herself,
minding her daddy til he passed
and now her mamma,
tied to this porch like there was a chain on her,
never uttering a solitary word of regret.
Or remorse neither.
She lived her life, some say,
in those wild and runabout years,
and now she’s paying for it.
But she’ll never say a thing –
not a solitary word.
Sitting quietly in my chair
trying to bring a coherent thought to the surface ,
the throbbing washing machine churns
the dirty laundry of my life and
from the monitor, the sounds of yet one more Law and Order
murmur her to sleep
as the frantic beat of Gershwin violins and clarinets
pump from the classical station.
Poetry will not rise above the voices in my head,
shouting about all the things left undone
and the failures that trip my every footstep.
The voices will not rest even as she sleeps
and the sparrows sing in the cedar boughs
and the pale snow evaporates
in the morning sun.
Willow boned and hollow breasted,
I wander into the winter light
drifting on careful wings
lifted by uncertain urges
to sky and cloud.
How often will these days drift
bearing little artifice of reality
and none of the grace requested.
How still the breath when flying.
How still the heart when praying.
Is this the apocryphal tale
of water into wine
or the great flood
in which our souls will wash away
down the mighty stream
of some great river
washed to the shore with copper pennies
to pay the ferryman’s toll.
How still the breath when praying.
How still the heart when dying.
She waits, willow boned and heart still beating,
wandering into morning light
from the deep nights dreams.
The sound of wings urge her flight
to clouds and heavens door,
bearing little of her waking reality
and all of the grace requested.