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.
She was one vacation picture away from losing her job,
he, one tweet away from losing his career,
& so they chose to be judged by their actions
rather than their thoughts.
She scrolled down her friend list,
unfriending those she had never known,
but who had been watching her life more than she ever knew.
It took a body hours to die in Earth space,
but years to die in cyberspace,
for families kept the social media accounts
of their loved ones alive,
hoping one of their messages would reach
Her son’s Facebook page–
deactivated after his death by his wife–
was like an erasure of the man she had loved
longer than his wife ever would.
They each lived a double life,
sharing a secondary one.
They each had a spouse,
who knew not what their other half did,
for their lovemaking
was merely the tapping of keys.
Whittier Cemetery had become our temple, where we talked to the dead rather than baptized them—where we paid penance for sins unknown.
I had spent more hours in a cemetery than most had their entire lives—not to find comfort or closure, but to pay tribute to a marble idol.
On Sundays, while Christians fellowshipped in dialogue amongst the living, we spent our time among the dead, speaking to them in monologue.
I often wondered if the neighbors ever looked out their windows & talked about “the Nolan women” attending Cemetery as one would Church.
“You had Mother first, Patrick. Let David have her last,” I prayed to my father, who, according to the elders, was awaiting baptism by proxy.
Perhaps it was because Caitlin had never laid eyes on our father that he could be as wonderful in her mind as she could possibly imagine.
My father, who lay below the earth, was as much a stranger to me as the Father who lived above it.
Walking amongst the dead, holding my rose in front of me like a candle, I thought how ritualistic—how almost cult-like—it all seemed.
Mother walked beside the vines that crawled up the back fence of the cemetery—the berries like the pomegranate seeds of the underworld.
“I felt what they were saying was good, but I don’t believe the good feeling was you there with me because it was something inside I felt.”
…relent, horrendous, artifact, lagoon, wobble, and plunder.
The Burial Underground
Twined with rusting links resembling
wrapped like a mummy in white sheets,
like a goddess of ancient Greece,
a woman resides in the Lochness Lagoon—
an artifact of a domestic goddess
who identified with being a mermaid.
Her legs are tied together,
even as her hands reach upward,
unbound by wood or satin,
or the complexities of life.
In life, he imprisoned her;
in death, he set her free,
for there is no grave with his name on it
attached to hers.
She is free to remain alive in the hearts
of those who still love her above.
The water plunders her flesh,
even as it preserves her bones,
in this twilight zone
known as Davy Jones’s Locker.