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
and he is astonished to see
His friend's wife
flutter and clutch his arm,
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
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,
he never says
I love you
I know he isn't
and I know
he does.