Her life began as a brief birth announcement,
followed by a series of Owen Mills poses,
& unfocused, jittery videos.
Then there was the grainy color newsprint photo in The Patriot Press
of her holding up a certificate
& wearing a medallion
for placing first
in a Constitution calligraphy contest.
For many years,
that was akin to her 4 touchdowns in 1 game.
She never got a write-up in the arrest records,
for that was a legacy she didn’t want to leave;
rather, she lived up as a subject
for several human-interest stories—
as the girl who sold 6701 Girl Scout cookies
because of a YouTube video
that turned those processed disks
into decadent desserts;
as a college graduate who crowdfunded her way
into creating an endowed scholarship
for creative writers in memory of her sister,
whose memoir, Lessons from Mother Goose,
gained notoriety posthumously;
in her silver-haired, golden years,
as a woman who made old tee shirts
into rag rugs for the homeless,
in memory of the brother she’d lost to addiction,
whose inward riches had turned to outward rags.
And then she finally told her own story
by writing her obituary,
for she always had to have
the last word.
He had been there to see him leave the earth
but not to see him put into it,
& I was angry at the world
that had not magically changed
because someone was no longer in it.
In burying my father,
she had buried, it seemed,
the last facet of her old self.
She had gone from a grieving widow
to a blushing bride-to-be
in the matter of an hour,
& no one from the LDS Church knew
of the quickening of Patrick Nolan’s soul
to the Spirit World.
The first ceremony would be a civil one,
followed by a spiritual one.
Just like everything else,
the marriages of other churches
were the preparatory marriages,
& Mormon marriages,
Because my father had died,
my mother would live as she pleased,
but hadn’t she always?
For if one had already enjoyed the intimacy of marriage
without taking the vows,
then how special could making it legal be?
For what was marriage but a representation
of being subject to one entity
till the death of oneself or the death
of the other.
I was a hollow vessel
where Mother’s empty words echoed,
taking no delight in what I had dreamt of
for as long as my eyes had beheld
the glory of David Dalton.
She’d imagined future memories
of taking care of them someday,
for they had taken care of her.
Though her child had made her
want to better herself,
Mom & Dad had made her
into a person who could.
Dad gave me strength,
but Mom gave me resilience
so that I was unbreakable.
As a little girl,
she had looked back
to see her mom,
looking back at her.
As an adult,
it was not behind her,
but above her,
that she looked—
whenever she shared a memory of her
with her own child,
whenever she spoke to the stone
that bore her name like a commandment,
whenever she made Dad proud.
If you weren’t really an adult
till your parents were gone,
she would be happy to be
a child forever.
When the fog settled over the Gulf Coast
for days that seemed to run together
like a week of binge-watching,
life was like walking through a dream
in varying filters.
It was that last day in the middle of the night—
before the fog lifted—
that the 3 boys came to her door.
Their frightened faces had been framed
in the frosted oval glass,
& their owlish eyes had looked sickly
in the illumination of the orange streetlight.
They said that the Londoners had taken their parents
& spoiled everything.
She chastised herself for opening the door
for what if they’d been followed?
And it was when she thought to look back
that she realized her family had disappeared
the second she had opened that door,
just as she was here
because someone else wasn’t.
When he was alive,
she slept to escape him through dreams,
but when he died,
he haunted those dreams,
& she became an insomniac who,
from sleep deprivation,
began to see his reflection in every window
& imagine his presence behind every door.
Famous writers haunted ghostwriters,
cases were tried by the judges perfected in Christ,
& the scientists who’d practiced the healing arts on Earth,
imparted their knowledge from Heaven—
even as those who’d passed on ages before
were able to witness the wonders of humankind
while living in the presence of the wonder of God.
Funerals were truly a celebration of one’s mortal life,
& grief became a thing of the past.
There was no moving on,
for to see & hear their loved ones was enough
to make up for the loss of the other 3 senses;
this new way of life & death helped keep their memory alive,
even as new conversations with the departed
were being had.
Where there had been faith,
there was now knowledge,
save for those who believed that man had never walked the moon.
A Series of Fortunate Encounters
The day was young,
the night was long,
that date of March 4th–
the date Sydney breezed into the Reedsy Bluesy Cafe
where Tammy O’Shanter told her that Adelaide
was the only one who had ever ordered chocolate milk (never coffee)
and a truffle brownie drenched in caramel syrup
every morning for breakfast
while she completed her morning crossword,
leaving behind more questions than answers.
Sydney waltzed into the Pence State College library
where Addie was always on the waiting list
for the newest installment of the Chocoholics Anonymous,
even as she was always late returning it,
leaving behind a Dove candy wrapper like a pressed flower,
which she had used for a bookmark.
Sydney ran into the man to whom Addie had been “practically engaged,”
into Addie’s best friend with whom she had shared the part of her life
her sister hadn’t seen,
and the mother they’d shared a space with–
a woman who had known Addie in a completely different way.
This all happened on her way to her Celebration of Life
(which they called funerals now),
with Addie as the guest of honor,
but the celebration had begun early
as Sydney retraced the steps Addie had taken every morning–
to gather the memories she would take out like holiday keepsakes–
memories she would take out when it only seemed
that she had run out of her own.
Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 474
One More Memory
If I had just one more memory–
one more moment stretched into years
(with light years between the seconds)–
I would have so much to show-and-tell you.
Does that not sound like a little child?
in the absence
of space and time
as you observe Hannah’s progression,
listen to my stories,
and see this, your daughter,
in the collegiate green cap and gown,
having remade herself into the ungraven image
she’s always wanted to be.
We share memories of you at the table;
I like to imagine you hear us
every time we speak your name.
We have no complaints.
Dad still carries your driver’s license in his wallet;
there are never enough pictures.
We say, “That’s a Mom joke!”
(when the joke is truly terrible)
or “Remember when Mom ..?”
Dad still calls you Mom;
I call you Grandma.
“Say ‘Good-night, Grandma,’”
I tell my daughter,
“blow her a kiss to heaven.”
It’s a kiss strong enough
I catch the one you send back
and plant it on her cheek.
We call you what our children call you.
You wanted Dad to call you Betty more.
Your mother always called you Betty Ann.
You liked the names Carolyn and Elise.
You dug up the roots of the family tree
to give me mine.
She is…she was…
it is just “Grandpa’s house” now,
but the contact still reads “Mom and Dad’s”
in my phone.
I will never change it.
We remember your goulash–
the only thing you knew how to make–
even though we weren’t even Hungarian.
We just are.
The Bridge That Took Walks in the Park
The last time they met,
M. knew it would be the last,
but he did not.
Lollygags had been her constant companion—
not a seeing-eye dog,
but a GPS for lasting love.
And when M. died,
leaving her beloved friend behind,
he picked up her care where M. had left off.
As one dog year passed,
it came to pass that Lolly led him to his second love,
after which the last remnant of his first
having served her masters well.
For she had been the thing
that had kept The Others away,
but the being that had brought The One