Oddly I have a photo
of my grandmother’s grave,
but not one of my mothers,
either of them actually, and
we’ve yet to have a funeral
for the one who raised me.
I forgive the one who gave me life,
for she gave me to one she felt
could care for me well and
she slipped away into death
before I found out her name.
I do have a college yearbook
photo of her, and that will
have to do every day, and
especially on Sunday when she
will have been lying
in the soil of West Virginia
for sixteen years, and I will
be mourning her passing for four.
She isn’t used to the cold,
she never will be, and she hates it
with the sort of passion she once reserved
for people of a different
political philosophy than hers.
She grew up here, but she left.
She has never regretted the departure.
She visits only in late spring
or in the heart of summer, or early autumn
and is here now only for a funeral, which she hates
more than the cold this winter.
She wishes that the death could have occurred
in late spring, early autumn, the heart of summer.
She is certain she will die in one of those seasons,
or at least in the deep enough south
that no one attending a funeral
will have to freeze and curse the winter.
She has no intention of dying anytime soon,
for she has a great deal left to do
and some of that clearly involves
cursing winter and hating the cold with a passion.
The priest droned on,
a short passage
from Micah had some
Within the coffin
we suspect Agnes too
grew even more impatient,
wanting final rest,
wanting the party to begin,
hating the tears.
Later, with wine flowing,
somewhere in the gray sky
I imagine her knowing wink.
When they lowered my grandmother’s casket
into the sodden earth, there wasn’t
a dry eye or shoulder, or leg around.
Sophie would have gotten a good laugh,
her children always too busy for a visit
getting soaked to the skin,
in a cold, windy downpour, all but me,
the one she chose to conduct the service,
the funeral director standing behind me
with the oversize umbrella, ensuring
the words of prayer, of departure,
were dry enough to read, washed
only by my tears, held back, unholdable,
the clunk of the first shovel of dirt
on the simple pine box still echoing today.