My Uncle and the Undertakers
They try so hard, the work that none
of us would do–the embalming,
casketing, the cossetting;
and the person dressed in his satin bed
still seems to look like some far-fetched hint
of his former self.
Yet in the chapel today, the body of my uncle–
oldest and last son to go–wears the precise
shape and features of his father, my Papou,
gone these forty-plus years.
I stand astonished
at their creation–perhaps artists,
workers of the spirit after all–
they have made the Circle manifest.
Your start is sputtery and slow,
as when an old faucet
is turned on
and you must let it run,
keep it running,
waiting for the dredgy brown
to wash clear from the pipes,
for the water to gush clear and clearer
truer to its original source.
Sunbathing in the 70s
I lay there, still
as a Greek antiquity
all afternoon, anointed
by Johnson’s Baby Oil,
my James Taylor album cover
enrobed in tin foil, arced open
to concentrate the rays on my face–
what did I know–
apprentice to beauty,
apostle of light.
Visiting the Graves
They chose simplicity in small bronze
plaques set into the earth,
raised letters for their names:
my mother, her sister, her mother
and father, her baby brother – oldest
and most burnished: 1935-1939.
My feet sink into grass sodden
from last night’s storm. The air is thick
with song – cicadas strumming in tall oaks,
their insistence of late summer leaving.
The marigold bed my grandmother wanted
gleams with orange and ochre yellow,
and I think of Van Gogh, his words
to brother Theo: Even in pressing darkness,
There is a sun.