Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Natural Death

On the way over there

Father said something

I didn't understand

about youth

in Asia and Mother horrored at him

as though he had just said “murder”,

dropped the M-bomb

[embalm] in our happy family van.

“She had to be alive

so our son could have a chance

to meet that woman who used to sing

and make strawberry cheesecakes,”

she said,

“and besides it's just the moral thing to do,

the natural thing.”

I had no idea

until we had arrived

that we were going

to visit a woman's old srange feet;

claws, veins, and coldness;

great grey gargoyle's feet

at the end of a


of a bed.

I did not want

to touch the old strange woman attached to those feet,

yet strong adult hands

firmly pushed my narrow scapulas

and all of me

toward the alien tubes,

tubes robbing the death from her nose;

toward her eyes, eyes

like bitter cold mood rings;

toward her teeth

like a wooden chest in the attic

whose cracks have widened with time;

toward matted grey hair

[grave hair]

like frosted grass concealing warm bugs.

Mother said

she used to sing things

with a once unblistered tongue,

shout hello to her grandchildren

from her porch

with a twinkle

in her clear sapphire eyes,

but all that was here

was like some unearthed

and eroded artifact

that offered no hint as to the essence

and spirit

of the ancient civilization that had once possessed it.

Then terror and dread


as a crow's leg of a hand

appeared from under the yellowing crocheted afghan


one of the hands that mother said

used to bake strawbury

pies and roll meatballs.

It acted autonomously,

clutched and explored my shrinking face,

her skin cold like ashes

where one might expect warmth.


no, aliveness--

pulsed in and out of those tubes

to her nose and body

like thick bitter cough syrup through a straw

and then she looked

at me,

or rather something dark and outside looked at me

through my great-grandmother's eyes.

I was on display here

for a fossil to observe

like a Bizzarro museum.

My inside places got all cold and hard,

and my clothes slackened a bit.


she released me

and I backed away,


not caring if I bumped into a chair

or a stack of flowers on a TV tray,

doomed to perish

with their faded


or best those foreign metal canisters of essence

forcing aliveness into the worn

[worm] body,


from the dust of that sterile

lifeless tomb

of a

living room.

there were adult whispers then

and strained feigned faces

while I sat in the coroner

drawing shallow frowning faces in my breath

on the window,

trying to shudder off the


flakes of her skin on my young face.

Months later

they buried those feet

along with the rest of the woman

I had met that night

where a little decay

would finish making her into dirt.

Left unburied

was the part that Mother righteously said lives on,

the part that sings and makes spaghetti,

the part that sadly I had never met,

it having departed long before our delayed encounter,

her carcass having been draggled through the morals of relatives
and in the end left alone to survive.

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