I want her to be remembered
by her fear of holding infants.
How on those provincial afternoons
that were somehow outside time
you could hear her words float
like notes of music, whistling
her slow, paceless wisdom
to an attentive world.
Can you imagine how it feels, she asks.
Its pure, unbroken body
cradled in these old, sinful hands?
And over again, you whisper yes
to that bottled memory.
Why is it so easy for us to think
we are all capable of tenderness?
That it doesn’t take all of a good, behaved life
to perfect the art of holding someone
and keeping quiet? There lies
the stoned-carved truth: of how good poetry
is a lifetime of bad poetry.
Of how we all need a book
on the many ways to hold a person,
to share warmth with a newborn,
or with a child that’s crashed to the floor
in a stony park, or with an elderly woman
breathing deep yet still
afraid to bruise your sorrow-hardened hands—
believing, somehow, that you are still too frail.
You are. By how you cannot look
her in the eye when she says Be a good man,
this is my ardent prayer. Only nodding
and secretly wishing she would sing
those words into a mason jar. You want to lie
to the world about her last words.
To fulfill that skewed and youthful sense
of what makes a beautiful ending;
To delay an unsaid question until you
are wise enough to talk about love
with someone who has loved you
all your life—pure and reasonless.
But now you must kneel
in your godless church.
You must put your hands together again,
and speak to an imagined world
where she is welcomed by tender hands.
Happy birthday lola!