ON LOSSES

By the way, the headstone is lovely,
designed by your niece, it pays tribute
to you as aunt, as sister, as friend.

I do wish it had said mother as well
but I know I’m the one secret you thought
would fit into a corner of the pine box,
buried with you, to be, like you, reclaimed
by the rocky soil of West Virginia.

Little could you have imagined that
a few cc’s of saliva could expose
what you so carefully hid, and you
were helpless to avoid it regardless.

My adoptive father, the second one,
slipped away slowly, dying before death,
under the living eyes of aides and nurses.

You just lived your life your way,
answered to yourself and perhaps God,
and decided it was time to go, needed
no permission, made no farewells,
and in that regard, I am one of the family.

NATURALIA NON SUNT TURPIA

When did we stop being of the soil
and begin to fear it, to tell our children
not to touch the ground, it is dirty
where once it was only dirt, and we
put in our mouths, from time to time
if only to drive our mothers crazy.
She says if you are going to plant
wear gloves, and when she walks away
I pull them off my hands and plunge
fingers into the turned and dampened soil.
This, I am convinced, is how it is
supposed to be, how nature intended,
before designer dyed mulch, rubber mulch
before we became the robots
our parents’ sci-fi writers anticipated.
Later, in the shower, scraping the dirt
from beneath fingernails, I watch
as it flows reluctantly down the drain
I bid farewell to that bit of my childhood
but I swear I won’t deny my grandchildren.

MOMENT

Enter slowly, calmly, and we dare say
enter at your own risk for you cannot know
what will happen within, nor can we
although we have been here countless
times before if our memory serves us, which
of course it cannot for it, too, is stuck
in this very moment with no escape.
Do not try and fight it, nor should you
think about understanding it for the effort
is doomed to failure, and escaping that
is one of the reasons you are here,
if you look openly at yourself, painful
thought that is for each of us always.
If you find it, or when, do not try
to hold on to it, for it cannot be held,
merely welcome it in and when
it decides to leave, as it will,
bid it a gentle farewell and smile.