Saturday, September 23, 2006

View of death at different ages...

Back then, he says,
we laid the dead out
in the parlor.
My grandparents,
right there
in the front room.
It was how
we did things.

There's just been another
funeral
and he is astonished to see
His friend's wife
flutter and clutch his arm,
stumble
chair to chair,
trapped, terrified
of seeing a body
in death.

I don't understand it, he says.
He means
the fear.
He still kisses the foreheads
of the dead,
as they did back then.
Goodbye kisses
for the journey.

I tell him that I used to think
it was an obscenity,
the open casket.
It was an offense
when I
was falling
off the edge
of the world
to hear them say
it was
my mother there
powdered and lipsticked
still as a wax mold...
To hear them say
how natural she looks
and me
not even screaming,
My little brother's eyes
dry, shocked and lost.
Afterwards -
this is how I saw it -
the grownups got
drunk and I hid
in my Sunday clothes
eating a roast beef sandwich
escaping the pity of
kind relatives
with runny mascara.
I hated them all.

But closer in time,
it is my father
boxed and covered
in flowers.

I smooth his hair and
kiss his forehead.
I talk to him and put my hand
over his.
It's the last chance
I'll ever have
and
I am glad to see
the pain gone
and the lines smoothed
and just to
see his face.
Goodbye kisses
for the journey.

Will you come to mine? I ask him.
Will you kiss my forehead
if it's me first?
Something breaks
in his eyes.
I don't think I could
stand it
stand to see you...
laying there...
he says.

And although
he says he's used to death,
although
he never says
I love you
I know he isn't
and I know
he does.

14 comments:

Mary said...

Beautiful, LJ. That last verse ....

My mother insisted on having my father laid out at home after he died and before the funeral. I found this difficult, but she got a lot of comfort from it.

herhimnbryn said...

Oh, lj.
He does, doesn't he?

Perfect words.

LJ said...

Thank you Mary and Herhimnbryn. I was beginning to think I was scaring people of in droves.
And H...I think he does. In his own way.
He just doesn't trust words or fences.

Darkmind said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
chuck said...

Powerful, LJ.

I can speak of social taboo and silence regarding discussions of dying, death, the dead, grief, grieving...but it is much easier to acknowledge taboo than to break the silence.

Here's a social "icebreaker" I choose not to verbally use:
"Am I the only one to get 'horny' after funerals?"

(Hell, I used to get 'horny' after HUMAN ANATOMY class in med school--no, the corpses did not "turn me on"...rather, it was some primal urge to AFFIRM LIFE.

The lingering scent of formaldehyde was not much of an aphrodesiac, even if my so-called horniness had actually found a responsive "love object".)

If this comment is too far afield from your very sensitive poem, please delete the comment. I mean it to be in good taste, but maybe it stretches verbal social norms too far...I do run on sometimes!

LJ said...

I'm delighted by your comment, Chuck. And I think the urge to affirm life (and sex is pretty darn life affirming)is a good reaction to funerals. For me, they are always a reminder to pay attention to life, to the others in life who might not be there tomorrow. Good for you for saying this. Delete it? I don't think so.

LJ said...

Hello Darkmind (nearly scrolled by you!)...Thanks for the welcome. And good to be back. Glad you liked the entry.

Teri said...

so beautiful, LJ. you choose words like blossoms and arrange them in sublime bouquets...

LJ said...

Teri...I curtsy (stepping on the hem of my skirt) Thank you.

phlegmfatale said...

tear-jerkingly beautiful. Thanks - I needed a cry.

LJ said...

Yeah. I needed a cry too, Phlegmy.

Elizabeth said...

That was simply beautiful.

LJ said...

Thank you, Elizabeth.sy

Edie said...

Well, i'm behind. i got a laugh from the sugar daddy post, a laugh i needed and then came here an got closer to the cry that is, for some reason, lingering in me today. but i thank you. i think your father and mine are of the same generation of men. they loved us without doubt.