Onions at My Father’s Funeral
As they were lowering
his coffin into the ground
beside my mother’s grave
where the grass had regrown—
my body leaned and followed,
my eyes peered into that hole,
the scent of pine rose up,
mixing with that of wild onion
underfoot, and I saw her
again, in the dim light of memory
peeling back the papery skins,
dicing and chopping the bulbs
on a kitchen board, all the while
wiping her eyes with the back
of her hand, a weeping without grief
or a grief awaiting a cause.
My Mother’s Charm Bracelet Passed Down
It was one of her favorites:
a gold chain with miniature charms—
and unreliable latch, each
one commemorating a birthday:
a tiny calendar with a sapphire,
a horseshoe, stove, and skeleton key.
Now, I hold it to the light, inspecting it
for flaws, remembering her wrist,
how it would bend while scrubbing
a pot, or threading a needle,
or waving from a distance, as I
see her now, after so many years,
face behind the cap’s veil,
no-nonsense shoes, teased bouffant
and body tangled in shadows,
her arm raised, saying goodbye,
the links still jingling.
My mother knew the value of a dollar.
Mornings, she rode the Z-2 bus
to the bank where she worked
as a statistical clerk, punching in
her time card, at a quarter past eight.
She ate lunch at a greasy counter
of Kresgee’s Five and Dime,
always a tuna on rye, with a free
orange soda and two straws.
At home, she was all business
paying piled up bills and cutting out
store coupons from an old cigar box.
When she died, the fancy perfumes
she must’ve splurged on stayed untouched
in their crystal tombs. She was always
waiting for that special occasion.
Now, forty years later, I open one,
releasing the sweet reek of vinegar.
An Outfit to Bury Him In
Letting myself into the apartment,
I see the neon hands of the clock
keeping slow time, the smogged
water glasses left in the kitchen sink,
afew grocery coupons stacked up
on the table. Then, opening the closet
I take out the extra-wide black suit,
a starched blue shirt and striped tie
on a wooden hanger and carefully
lay them on the bed, dusting off
the shoulders and smoothing down
the creases along the lapels,
then lifting up his good dress shoes,
should he be needing them again.
- Four Poems - May 26, 2021
- Paradoxical Mourning in Edward Hirsch’s GABRIEL A POEM and STRANGER BY NIGHT - October 27, 2020