On the way over there
Father said something
I didn't understand
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,”
“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
like frosted grass concealing warm bugs.
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
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.
pulsed in and out of those tubes
to her nose and body
like thick bitter cough syrup through a straw
and then she looked
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
from the dust of that sterile
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.
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.
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.