i stood at open closed caskets and planted plastic flowers
upon silent graves;
in the backseat on the way to my grandfather's wake
mom and dad played a song about angels over the stereo. they
had to turn it off when i burst into tears.
i did not understand the twenty one gun salute
but i left a piece of myself in the folding of the flag,
left it with forty nine stars in the wrinkled hands of the widow.
vulnerable, kissing the loss of the dewy cemetery, the fresh dirt and
she was stolen at the hands of another,
just after her forty-second trip around the sun;
i cradled my always strong father as he cursed god on the kitchen floor.
the night my sister cried into my shoulder i read ten different articles,
each one with a headline reading "manslaughter", while
the soles of my feet knew it meant "murder".
the pool of blood flashed to my vision and
i've spent seven years trying to bleach the stain out
from behind my eyelids -
lighting a memorial candle at my future wedding, graduation, childbirth
my mother did not deserve generic music at her remembrance.
i squeezed into a pew as
the church sanctuary was too small for her service.
widely loved and widely known, she
had been sick for fourteen years with no rest; fought
collapsed lungs and bared organs and
her eyes were as soft as the words she would leave you with.
her breath marooned the thirteenth of february and
on valentine's day, my best friend received a rose at her doorstep
with a note that read, "i love you more than chocolate.
we did not have class for one week. his daughter was five years old
and he was two semesters away from
getting his bachelor's degree in a helping profession;
he sat two rows ahead of me, one seat over
next to a boy named aaron and an empty chair.
the pastor spoke of a freedom from pain,
joy joy, hallelujah, a man who loved god;
they did not disclose the cause of death the morning the dean
entered our classroom,
spoke three words and
the silence fell -
sometimes, sometimes, we will never know why.
i was thinking about funeral songs the other morning. i realized that, at my mother's funeral, they only played songs she probably would have hated; and then i got angry at how unfair that is. here's a poem.