Coming to Rest
Because she’d not bury
the name with the dead child,
she made her surviving five children
swear they’d pass it on
to the first daughter born to them.
Another name for letting go.
Or holding on.
Another name for home.
Why this old Persian form for today, of all days?
Why not sonnet or blank verse to help me take hold?
Down to the wire goes the season’s gold,
late this year, so long it took to take hold.
I don’t care that my days tumble down
to the compost pile. I want to look, to take hold.
Seize the day. Carpe Diem, if you like.
Bite down hard on the hook and take hold.
Down the creek float the leavings of what I once was.
Just a girl. Mostly waiting for luck to take hold.
Last night rain kept the roof busy scolding
me, wake up you dumb cluck and take hold.
I’ve already answered my e-mail, my voice
mail, my snail mail. My real work? To take hold.
Kathryn died too young. Age twelve. Now she tolls
in the dust of my name: to come back, to take hold.
The aunt I was named after died too young.
She sank at age twelve
into diabetic pneumonia. Then coma,
too pretty a word for her dying. Why cling
to another old form like this no-holds-
barred song for my aunt who died too young
to care about romance? What good is a song
now, to her? Or to me? Maybe I’ve grown too old
for such artifice, as if I’m trapped in a coma
of middle-aged dullness. My tongue
slips on names. But not hers. But why dwell
on her death. So she died, much too young,
not all like an angel who could do no wrong,
not at all blonde & pretty as I had been told.
When she sank into that final coma,
she must have looked ugly. I can’t make this
villanelle sing, no matter what I’ve been told
about Kathryn, who died too young,
years before insulin, of diabetic pneumonia.
She smoothes her skirt and squints at me.
I don’t know what to say. Or why she’s come.
The clock’s stopped ticking on the wall. Back home
again, she sees what I see, same old creek
reflecting nothing but a sky where trees
fish with their lines of moss all day. Let’s thumb
a ride to town, she dares. Let’s make the phone lines hum
above these droughty fields. Now that I’m free
I’m getting out of here. She says she wants to hear
the latest gossip, wants to have a little fun.
She tells me everything that hangs around
too long gets stuck. I nod. I don’t dare
ask her why she’s here, this dust I’ve stirred from
sleep. This shell of light. This sullen hologram.
This nameless creek
almost obscured by shade
where she was last seen
by the camera lens
keeps rushing through me
as she hikes her skirt
and stands wanting to be
brave enough to walk
into the current,
sickly girl whose cropped
hair won’t blow
in the summer
wind, too short,
too short, she cries,
coming to rest
in the photograph.