Three poems for the Poetry Salon by Anu Mahadev.
I press them to my chest,
like folded laundry, warm
skeins of silk. Could it be
only a week since you slipped
into the folds of memory,
the thin birds of your hands moving
above the black stove or the last
visit to the hospital, already filed
away? The pale blue mountain
bursts into flames, stars explode
ink and the sky. I run into caves,
open the endless paths
of mourning petals. Flowers
for your hair, your feet.
My smoky eyes stain the water
bittersweet. And somewhere far,
a robin cuts through cottoned snow,
heralds in spring, writes your words
on these leaves I clutch to me,
and crumble, into bits of you.
I’m heartless. Detached. Guilty.
She flits through my house.
Watches me clean the beds, make a sandwich and field
those calls. The phone is tired.
“Yes, she was in pain. No, he isn’t here right now.
There is a snowstorm here.”
Cue – fairytale smoke – puff – and she’s gone.
I’m busy working out passport and flight details, proof of one’s
existence in the world. She’s coughing up blood.
The doctors shake their heads. They’re just waiting for an autopsy.
I’m canceling events, life’s little details, stuffing tears
into envelopes, to be examined later.
Now we sit, staring at each other, promising that life
will be a gift, not a complaint box.
She smiles knowingly. I’ll go back to cribbing about my weight,
or who was invited where, and why this school is better than the others,
and why there is competition to get into Princeton.
We, the living, are crazy. She knows. She’s visited this earth and felt its intricacies.
Now it’s time. We part ways. She’s falling as the gentle snow.
I want to go out and breathe her, feel her tingling on my damp skin.
I plunder the red blanket, she scatters
out of it in a confetti of bindis.
The fleece encases the remnants of her warmth,
her scent. It’s soon replaced by washing soap.
I am a lost lamb in the woods in her tidy kitchen.
Her spice box and coffee filter I recognize.
The maid has washed out her fingerprints off all the smudged utensils.
She crumbles in my hands, when the flames
lick her hungrily with the burning coal on her chest.
She’s not aware of the pieces of her left behind.
That little purse of coins. Is she out on an errand,
and just a little late returning?
Maybe asleep on the cot in the next room?
I throw away the diet chart along with the protein powder.
The hundreds of medicines that line the cabinets.
A feeble attempt at health.
I hold the nightgown she wore on the last day,
when she had no idea it would be her last.
Everyone has left. They talk of souls and salvation,
but I am worried if it will be cold where she is.
Does she need the red blanket? I’m taking it back with me
in case she does at some point.