Tag Archives: the aftermath of death



One after another, those of the condolence queue,
wearing whatever passes now for sunday clothes,
snake across the chapel carpet to review
the body.  Say how sorry.  Look morose.

Those of the right religion stop and kneel.
Some even reach to touch the corpse, who dare
to know how a dead hand might feel,
then cross themselves and murmur a small prayer.

A parish priest arrives to lead the rosary;
the lapsed, the unbelievers, sneak out for a smoke.
Who sent which flowers?  We must nose and see.
A distant relative retells his funeral joke.

At ten the undertaker flashes lights.
Everyone leaves.  Nobody says goodnight.





This was our house.
Now it is mine alone.
It is a good house, warm, with lovely bones
and flowers all around.  But
it is oddly empty now, and also full
of too much memory.  The past
crowds in like those loud crows I hear
competing for the roadkill down the street.

Archive of disappearing dreams, defeat,
silenced laughter, unsat chairs,
old discs nobody wants to play,
books likely to remain unread and
many, many papers I must shred—
like any good museum it requires
maintenance, archival care.  But
time has worked its own perverse repair:

what was once so dear and so familiar
has been slowly turning strange.
A kind of mercy has arranged it so
love is no longer of this house.
Has love grown lesser?  No.
It has grown lighter and more
portable.  It lives and moves wherever
heart and mind may chance to go.



Sunflowers crowd the driveway
their big round faces

gawking incredulity
like children grown too tall too fast.

Seeded in March to become in August
the reminders of a memory, top heavy

now they stand for one who loved them
specially, who gave them meanings—

“leave some for the birds,” and
“this good oil will heal,” and
“Fermat’s spiral is a golden ratio,” and
“always seek the light”—

who herself became, too far, too fast
a memory.  Too soon the after of before.

Sunflowers in the driveway cannot know
they mean all that, and more.  Much more.



‘Tis of thee, ’tis of thee, ’tis of thee,
of thee I sing, sweet heart,
my pith, my mind, my core,
my courage and my coeur de chant.
We are the whole damn chorus coming down
raining sad songs for all the weary world.
My tympanist, my diastolic, my systolic dance,
my own hell-heaven, coloratura and my profundo.
Let’s sing our opera in Italian so
we move ourselves to tears, and join the flow…

che faro senza Euridice?
dov’ andro senza il mio ben?

Sweet heart of many gratis blessings,
passion and compassion when they come,
only hum for one more time the aria

piu succorso, piu speranza
ne d’al mondo, ne d’al ciel….

but please, dear heart, don’t go with Orfeo.
Don”t break.
Let singing be ablution, water be the gift of tears.
Let memory remain where it belongs–
only a part of the wholehearted song.
And let us rise out of this place—
grab a towel now, begin to climb—
into the wilderness and music of emerging time.




This small sack of fragments now
is all we have of you: dust and bones.
Today we take it to the sea, allow
a freedom greater than you’ve ever known.

The ship’s captain tells us you may go
as far as Sicily, full fathom five,
by Christmas, going with the flow.
You’ll love that, as you would have done, alive.

So we release you to the waves.  We watch
you splay to water-fireworks.  We toss
sunflowers after you, as on that spot
a single gull floats over our loss.

We cling, returning landward, to an afterglow.
Much easier to believe it must be so.



Originally posted June 2013



As if you owned nothing
but a pair of earrings,
the two gold hoops that once hung
from the lobes of your living ears

now occupied a little plastic box
marked “patient’s belongings”
someone left for me to find
on the still, hard mound of your chest.

No sign of your cobalt blue kimono
or the brand new underwear
you had been saving in a drawer
and asked me to fetch for you–

my hands shaking–once we knew
the ambulance was on its way.
We lost connection after that.
They came, and you were gone.

Your earrings and I,
with only the turned-off machines
pushed back against the walls to overhear

said our appalling last goodbye.  Then
stunned to a disbelief way beyond sorrow,
we went home.  In time

I gave the earrings to your sister–
as you know she is a fool for jewelry–
who felt they should be hers.

Most of your other things have gone,
piecemeal, over the years,
each time tearing at the heart.

Only your favorite flannel shirt
stays in the closet still,
its empty arms hanging by its sides,

a last most patient belonging,
waiting for its purpose
to be once again fulfilled.



Remember when daddy fell.
It was by the lake, in the sand.
He sort of slipped into it, easily,
slow as an hourglass down
the slope leading to the water.

We caught him.  No body hurt.
Nothing unusual for the old.
Had he been tending to lament,
our deaf joking, poking fun
denied him that.  We quickly

picked him up, brushed off
the sand and the edge of sadness.
After all, it was a sunny day.
I can still see him sitting
where we put him, on the deck

overlooking the lake, overlooking
the happy noise of the rest of us, swimming–
how he waved his hand, his eyes
squinting, squinting out a small
wetness, surely from a grain of sand.