She lies down with us
thirteen months after she died.
One eye blinded,
sometimes the wig, last-ditch helmet in her war.
Her single breast, and nearby
shapeless clothes in plastic bags,
designated cast-offs if she got well.
There is a strand of dark hair pressed to your coat.
She leaned into life,
you said. Wedged in your desk drawer,
a small gold watch keeps time a year past her death
while her bank statements arrive
month after month, cold and stiff.
You grab them from our hall table,
Disconnect her phone line.
Do you mourn?
Do you wish I could?
Who is sleeping in this bed?
Is the sickness dead?
She had no will.
She was 67, a mother.
A silver service lies idle
on our kitchen shelf,
paste-pearl strings float
in your dresser,
a household ocean
of deep blue light.
Sheaves of papers,
reams of remembrances,
yellow as tobacco-stained teeth.
She fought for air
till the end,
and fought for more
Siberian cats from Venice,
Italian glass in an unfinished house,
a vertical Japanese garden
with tricked-out downhill hoses.
All that water, her going under
leaving nothing to no one
but bone and memory,
Photos slip like secrets
from your folder. There she is:
her starburst smile, China-red earrings.
You in bathing trunks, beard, with a baby carriage
fresh and oblivious, a few years after she gave up
two packs a day, 30-some odd years
before the oxygen machine.
LOIS: you said, rhymes with clitoris.
Her Brooklyn voice bubbles up,
floods the room, an infinity pool.
A year later you buried her ashes
to fertilize a next life, and mine.
You say this very minute, The Ritz,
tip the driver more than 20 percent,
because, you explain, of the storm
you and I are traveling through,
the one sweeping up the East Coast,
the storm of all storms.
A silver lining, you said once,
sewn into dying’s coarse wrap,
your upper lip
softening in our steam
while mine, wet and impatient,
longs for loss to fade.
You watched porn to blunt the end
uncoiled from her, numb and blue.
The gold sky throws an eerie glow
before winds stir a downpour
while you wrap me, gleaming,
in afternoon’s late-harvest coat.
It’s October. The small star of David
carved into her gravestone
resists the rain.