April 21, 2006

Mourning Poem

My father-in-law died on a sunny April day very much like today, eight years ago. So for Friday poetry blogging, I am posting this poem for him.


I wanted to erase the smell
of rubber sheets, the hiss of leaking

oxygen. The gasps of a man
who could no longer breathe.

So on the morning of his father’s funeral,
I seduced my husband.

His father was a broken man. I remember the way
his eyes looked at me as if he saw inside of me.

Strange how invisible people
are able to see each other.

My mother-in-law made him
watch weepy television shows.

At every saccharine line
he would wink at me.

"These shows," he said once, "are a good argument
for sex and violence on television."

My mother-in-law didn’t hear him.
She was never listening.

When my sister-in-law watched her soap opera,
he and I were banished to the kitchen.

I sometimes forget he’s not there still
hunched on a kitchen chair, cigarette in hand.

My husband kept talking about the church service,
the limo, the coffin, the flowers.

But the waves of grief had washed
my body clean. My wet hair hung

in musky strands. I wanted to celebrate
his father’s love for flowers.

The red matador tulips he had
given me, pushing their way through earth.

The blue forget-me-nots his garden had seeded.
The silky smell of rose petals.

I knew his widow was saying the rosary,
his daughter searching for the blackest dress.

My husband asked: do you think we should
be doing this? I mean, on our way to a funeral?

I rubbed my hair across his chest
touched his thighs lightly.

Yes, I said. Yes.
I know your father would approve.


Jane Ellen+ said...


ccw said...


liz said...


SpookyRach said...


Bitty said...

jo(e), you didn't say, but since you didn't attribute the poem to someone else, I assume it's yours.

It gave me goosebumps; that's not a cliche. It actually did.

spiral said...

Sigh. Thanks for reminding me I don't read enough poetry anymore.

jo(e) said...

Bitty: Oh, yeah, I guess I should have said that I wrote it.

New Kid on the Hallway said...

Oh, jo(e), that's lovely.

the reverend mommy said...

My husband and I call it "reaffirming life."

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I really like it -- it remembers the whole person, which is hard to do.

Sarah Sometimes said...

this is lovely.

Scrivener said...

Beautiful poem. Is it only because I've been teaching Love Medicine recently that it reminds me just a little bit of Lulu and Beverly, and my students' astonished reactions to that scene?

Poor Mad Peter said...

Thanks for the inspiration, Jo(e). This is real stuff.

joanna said...

Wow. The third couplet--maginificent turn--what control and energy in it as well as the whole poem.

MonkeyPants said...

Oh, wow.

I aspire to write with the depth of feeling you show.

Rexroth's Daughter said...

I just read this poem out loud to my husband. It is so beautiful, so life affirming. It made us want to laugh and cry.

Friday Mom said...

Amazing! This is a gift...the writing, the perspective, all of it.

halloweenlover said...

I'm crying. What a beautiful poem. I think you're right.

Rob Helpy-Chalk said...

I wasn't sure if it was you until I got to this couplet:

I rubbed my hair across his chest
touched his thighs lightly.

Then I knew you wrote it. You are, like, a hair-o-sexual or something.

jo(e) said...

Hair is sexual in many cultures, isn't it?

I think that's why Muslim women keep theirs covered.