I’ll not forget
The sombre shuffle in
From the rain, the pain of it
Of nods and handshakes
Which cannot help but miss the mark
But it’s all we have:
Inadequacy on a pedestal.
Oh, get on with it! She’d chuckle
Cross her legs and light another cigarette.
And so we did,
With the inevitable mini rituals
Attendant on the outward one:
The squeak of shoes on stone
And clearing of throats, misting of eyes
At the wavering brush of candlelight
And spray of lilies over her.
The moment’s happened, then, she’d say
The one we shrink from, and push away until we can’t.
Yet there’s no end
To what we can’t admit
As later anecdote and wishful thinking shape our memory
And, chameleon-like, it changes in the telling.
But this much I know:
Her dark-haired grandson who sat apart
Inclined, black-shirted, at the piano,
His fingers dancing a song of his own making
Tenderly, as if he’d spent his short life
In preparation of this moment
Under the thirteenth Station of the Cross.
She adored her music
From Bach and Billie Joel to Casablanca’s theme…
She was a good listener.
But now it was our turn
To hang onto words, to incantations
Expressing the inexpressible.
I clutched my tissues, hot and damp
And still the rain kept falling.
In her letters, notes and diaries – a litany of ruminations
Words had stretched her past her troubles, far beyond…
And now she is the beyond.
The black bug of the waiting hearse was shiny
Doors open, mouthing glassily in the pale air
As holy water splashed
Like slivered tears
Contrary, contemplative, and one of a kind
Mistress of the mercurial: my mother.
The grave-studded hillside
Stretched, like a thousand-piece chess-set
With exhausted pawns, falling
And tilting Kings and Queens
Watching, as she disappeared
Under scoop after scoop of earth
The richer now for holding her.