Their Dead, They’re Dead
Some of the dead couldn’t be happy
if you paid them.
Do you ever dream your dead
into places where they don’t belong? Rococo
ballrooms. Automotive museums. Some of their dead
wouldn’t be happy anywhere.
Or anywhen. There was a boy they knew–hell,
they were in love with the poor (soul.
It would be useless to think of him as a man:
he’d have made an elegant trans.) He died by execution
tied to a chair in a cheap motel. Now
and then they see him in the background,
with a bracelet of knots.
His is one voice they can remember clearly. Funny:
they can’t remember their mother’s sound.
Their grandmother is a tickle in their right ear,
a hair of recollection. There’s a country aunt
so high up in their nose she’s almost a sinus,
and an uncle in their throat. At times they feel
his hard flat Rs might walk right out of their mouth.
All those dead. They sit around up there, mostly quiet,
like it was a Baptist wake.
Their dead won’t come when they’re called,
or come inopportune, and they can’t evade them.
Sometimes they need their dead.
Not like water–more like bakery birthday cake.
Or mountains iced with pink rhododendron.
Or sand underfoot.
For a while they lived on the Florida Gulf Coast.
Tampa Bay was a stroll, but it took months
for them to locate the Gulf. It was night, low
tide and the sand was pressed and cool.
They can remember fumbling
in an earthy crawl space, but not with whom.
They can close their eyes and gather
double hands-full of river gravel, smooth
as the sky and glossy wet, drops
of minnow-scented water falling on their toes.
Sometimes there is a thing in the past
they need. That fat pen left in the desk
on Eighteenth Avenue. Vial of freeze-dried
brine shrimp. Red plastic comb last used
to frizz a doll’s blond coiffure.
They ask: Mama, did you see what I did
with my keys last night? Funny:
they can’t ever hear what she replies.