Meditation on Leaving
I don’t want to mention death
anymore or the black bird swooping down
from the pine tree. I need daffodils
to poke their sharp heads through winter’s ground,
for the purple clematis to vine-climb around the mailbox post
and Carolina wrens to visit my deck. It is not time
says the moon. So I place my hand on your cold grave,
set a stone down again and wait for spring to whisper in.
I find a brown leaf in the grass, a gray bird
twisted on the ground,
flat snakes, dead branches.
I close my eyes and dreams
will not return. Just my father’s voice replaying in my head
repeating the same sentence again and again.
On my wedding day
he stood beside me, hands dead at his side, he forgot to lift
my white veil to reveal my unmarried self. I lifted the lace myself.
Now my hands are so weighed down, I do not know how
to lift this black veil that has sewed itself into my face.
What was there before departure?
I watch fathers greet daughters,
grandparents sweeping up grandchildren. Lips meeting cheeks.
I have been here a long time at this gate waiting for arrival
that will never come again. Now leaving is all there is.
The mother coming through the front screen door in summer
groceries in hand, flies buzzing through. A lover beside her.
Those three brothers back from college or work or a friend’s.
Even the dog returned after a daylong escape. How does it shift?
The door slamming on the way out, the father packing, the suitcase
in his hand, the not coming back.
The tumblers will not click into place, numbers flit by in the sky,
I can no longer reach them. My arms are not long enough. Must I grow wings
to fling this feathered body to meet the ones and the sixes. How can
a number matter? 21 years of marriage, 3 children, 1 dog. 5 houses.
It could have been anyone on any given day. Why pick that man
on that train? Why take away this father?
I am walking backwards trying to reverse the hands
of the clock. Nothing works. I stand in a tree and sweep
the sky with a net, numbers fall inside. Let’s turn that lock again.
The month my father died the black bird returned to my windowsill.
It was all about the leaving. The brothers left the house long before.
The mother, the father. Now it’s my turn. I want to go. I don’t want
to go. A different house. A different form of death. I am grabbing
the knob, pushing through the door.
And all those stones I set on my father’s grave
have somehow turned up inside my own pockets.