To Do List
Unpacking my failings upon realizing that the dog is old and will die one day—
You’ve weathered worse.
Perhaps you’ve forgotten that living is more than a survival—
Your grandmother in her empty room talking to ghosts and
Call your mother
The dead rat collapsed, edging
Gardens you’d meant to plant
Tomatoes on a dying vine
—More than an accumulation of
regrets at summer’s end
Why entertain ghosts, unbegun? She’s here
sniffing the breeze— fall is coming
turning thrice before laying in the sunshine
Elation on her face. Contentment.
Which is more than you’ve been allowed
these long days, alone. Someone to say:
It’s alright; wherever you’re headed,
And who else but the dog loved you without a list?
Conditions, assurances—of course you met them; worked hard
They say it happens quick
The death of what you love is never timely
Always inconvenient; but it isn’t her fault
You lost a job. No, not her fault
He waited five years to unmask a monster.
He never liked her, anyway.
Monday your mother
offers to speak to him on your behalf
—to take you back
Meaning: your parents are old
Still don’t understand
what to do with you
Mom, no need
Love is not a temple built of knees
So you haven’t made the
Short drive home
Scared of what other silence she’s
Tucked in the lines on her forehead,
Gathered around her mouth:
—You are too old to be wanted
—are no more than a failed decade,
a few poems—
Call your mother slips
Further down your life
as told in to-do list
So you named a man Home
Forgot that home is a construct
—like Love. Still, you stayed while he took mallet to foundation
Renamed you: Rubble, Heap, Broken Tile Girl
Did you let her age before she was due?
You, too busy being wanted, to throw the ball a little longer?
Ignore his protests—
Isn’t it time to face those you’ve let down, help them fade?
Mourn the slow whither of their respite:
Your mother’s aging hands
The way your grandmother sang your name
You sought in other bodies
Isn’t it time to face your failure with some dignity?
All that you’ve neglected? This to-do list:
32 years of misplaced construct
The punctured disappearances
Your empty hands
Wipe their eyes clean; change soiled clothing, sheets. Spoon feed, play airplane
Restore what vision you can: yours of them, theirs of you—Is this a selfish act?
Could you see them off one by one?
Stop avoiding this question
Could you stay this time, stick around?
Wait for the first goodbye, the next?
Beg the way your mother taught you, Pray like grandma does
—Their forgiveness: the quick and loving pardon
You’ve weathered much
Perhaps you’ve forgotten—
This is what it means to have love
This is what matters
Take your time
Not a single bee sting or petal
disturbed—the just-peaked bloom
and snip: a centerpiece.
Her pretty head, severed—one deft pinch
Remember your mother’s adage:
______We hurt to be beautiful
______But the beautiful, survive—
One must only prune the node
Delta where esophagus meets / two fingers kiss
Sternum collars, shoulders gather,
indent — there
______—Like a broken arm; like
Quickly, before sunrise
Before the urge to greet her maker—phototaxis
Un-kinds this act
______Pray, resplendent flower,
a hymn: a ritual for rain; hum air into
Notes she cannot hit She clips
Carry the blossom, proud A warrior’s head pegged,
______a sacrifice most exemplary
Display the swan necked stem
a squat vase all ready
dying—Chin up, Blossom!
______A brilliant cease
The devotees, marvel:
______How long her neck
______Her throat undulates!
How they peel open her lips, slip trinkets
past her teeth—the roll and tumble
Each gasp and murmur:
Face toward the sun, swallowed a
stone. The nicked, sliced
zippered esophagus a
Cascade of red ribbon, unfurled—
A most exquisite display: Remembered my mother’s adage
It was giddying:
Plucked a bird from thin air
Denied it flight
Ripped its feathers clean, fistful
Stole its plumage, wore it bloody scalped
Promised it a different brilliance:
Survival, Sacrifice, a Cunning Shine
Like the time you lied: said Love
Got under her skin,
Put her on display