If I were to return to writing poetry, no doubt over a matter of years one good poem might be yanked from my heart to join what pieces remain, but that realization is a long time away.
While on the subject of death, I thought I'd just post some poems on the subject. Whether they are helpful or not, I can't know; I don't know much of anything now except allowing myself to cry when I need to and doing the daily things: wash, dishes, pay the bills, garden. Most of all I just hang with Sarah, my 18-yr.-old, who is the greatest comfort a father could wish for in enduring the loss of a another daughter, although buying her return tickets made me cry. I don't want her to leave, as in never--of course, impractical.
I have been teaching her to drive and she now has her driver's permit. Tomorrow she has to learn to change a tire. Today we went over required fluids.
Here are the poems, I won't bother to say where or when they were published:
Are we gentler with the dead
than with the living?
We lower them like glassware
into the earth
and speak well of them,
careful of their feelings.
We adorn their tombs
with photos and tulips.
Their rest is so sacred
we need a court order to disturb it.
It is easy to love the dead.
They make no demands.
They are not in competition.
They can't be more dead.
A Time to Kill
It was given us by a farmer,
found in a field.
I cupped it in my hands like snow.
Suddenly it sprang
to the hardwood floor.
Captured again, I held it close.
A splotch of blood stained my shirt.
I checked my cuticles then noticed
a toothpick of a bone
jutting from the ripped fur
and the large hind foot
(the lucky one)
hanging limp as a broken flower.
The cricket's hibernation
and the dream of the seventeen-year locust
are pure, like the silence of God during prayer.
I see death as an old coot in a rocking chair
spitting tobacco while bullets fly,
knowing how westerns end.
We are eternal or eternal myth:
No one believes in their own death.
Two months ago she did
the Sunday crossword with a pen.
Now she cannot tease the rubber band
from my gift of roses.
Distantly she smiles.
She is in no pain.
She knows her diagnosis
as you might a brand of toothpaste,
a detail too irrelevant to ponder.
At dinner tonight she ate
her salad with a spoon.
She was not embarrassed.
For the first time I see
her face without worry.
It is not her face.
I might have noticed sooner
if she called at times other than cocktail hour
when I expected her speech to slur.
It wasn't until she wrapped the potatoes
in newspaper for baking
that we suspected.
After a brain scan and biopsy
the doctors said radiation might extend her life
by temporarily shrinking the tumor
but it wouldn't restore her mind,
so we passed. She always said
she didn't want to linger.
We chose to care for her at home.
My youngest brother took the last watch.
I remember him lumbering
down the Spanish stairs to say,
“She's passed.” None of us cried.
How could we mourn a mute
and waxen body in blue diapers
as if it were our mother?
Death is so impersonal.
Three legal miles from landfall
I felt her ashes between my palms,
silky as talcum powder and odorless.
I sprinkled them on the sea
where they sunk underwater
like snow in a snow globe.
Funeral flowers followed:
leopard lilies, white carnations,
scarlet roses, birds-of-paradise--
and her beloved pink antheriums,
strange flowers without scent
from her bedside, outlasting her.
We circled twice and headed home.
I watched the flowers rock
in our widening wake
like the paper boats
she taught me how to make.
She folded them so perfectly.
She could fold a fitted sheet
so you couldn't tell it
from a flat one.
I can't rate myself.