The dead no longer sip their moon-tea
under maples, no,
they who lingered fragrant in the summer yard
press upon our windows now,
their caverned eyes explicit
in the black glass.
We’ve always known what happens
when the leaves come down. So we light fires,
we stay close to the fires; we twist our grim lips
to show these wraiths that we have nothing
for their empty bags.
All the people who are dead
I am sorry for you. I miss you, too,
those whom I knew. I see you
crowded under my feet, under all
the living feet, heaps of bones,
I think I see a ladder made of bones,
and bone shapes made of bones
leaning toward the ladder
as though skeletons but not
as alive, as though iron
filings filing like an army called up—
oh you are so dead,
and climbing out is not
what is going to happen. Underneath,
where you are, there is only deep opening
into further deep.
I am sorry for this. I know you
wanted orange juice,
it’s funny the things the almost dead
want, I’ve seen it: an English muffin,
and all of it. I’ve offered these to the almost
dead and they want breath, too. They were
not interested in flowers.
A special burden they release, the pines,
when in June their scented pollen falls
yellow, dulls the lamé sheen of cars parked
under them, and dusts the silky lake.
Every grief and chipmunk set a footprint;
fish kiss at water’s surface, leaving
moments of dark clarity that vanish—
like pricks of ache that needle me
yet I cannot explain or grasp them. Yes,
I grabbed for her, what could I do? She was there;
where were you? She fed me juicy orange
quarters and I grinned with orange teeth. She
fed me under trees, she let me drink
the water. I studied it so carefully
for slightest flicker showing from beneath.
What do I love beyond all else?
Chill rain constant all day.
Poppies torn like paper on their first morning.
Old peonies dismembered.
I entered a closet to be darker than this.
the wind chimes are incessant.
Their placeless tune I cannot sing, but I
do try, and I feel like a robin or an ocean
of breaking waves. Songs like this arrive
over and over, as souls do, each one different
but the same, acting like thoughts or river-waters
pouring forth only to disappear.
May 13, 2014
Eleven years ago this day,
Daddy died. But not yet:
at 7:19am, he still had
sixteen hours more. He spoke
on the phone, he asked for
toast. Then he went
into a coma and his hands
became ice. I had some trouble
holding them like he’d wanted me to.
© Rosemary Starace