A body wants to lie down; it wants to buy a plot. Who will meet you at the entrance to this mausoleum? She there, with her head in her hands, woman of sorrow guarding the steps, bent to a phosphorous moss so slimy and insidious it liquefies stone. Creep close to pay your respects; someone you know lives here. All that’s buried works at breaking your legs, your heart. You slip and scrape a knee. The scent of your blood alerts every living thing. And the things that are dead? Their ears itch as if you have bit them.
My mother’s cackle, a joyous sound, flies out of my mouth, and I cover my teeth in afterthought. What’s so funny? Her lined and puckered hands wash my dishes. I’ve begun wearing white socks with penny loafers; the arches yawn loose when I walk, as did hers. I have her pleat between my eyebrows.
And Daddy turns 89, turns 90, another rollover under the sod, seeking relief, pelvis pointing into the ground hard, the bones are sticks, his maneuvers bound by a funeral maker’s skill. The sound of him sucking through his few teeth and his coffee-haunted breath astound my senses. You can’t empty graves and get away with it.
Remember how his voice would boom; and she, always threatening the belt? They shoved their bluster ahead to conceal their soft hearts, pushed brooms backward toward the ancestors fading in Clifton and Over-the-Rhine, as Anne Marie Smith’s West End sinks into the Ezzard Charles exit.
They are ever my familiars, but come autumn, each autumn, especially autumn, come their anniversaries, a time when the beloved plump again with life, and their dusty lungs can only inflate if they suck the wind right out of me.