A Postmortem Guide*
The children wade naked and thigh-deep
in stone-colored water. They duck under
and come up flinging drops from their hair.
Wind raises gooseflesh on their arms.
Touch is the miracle, wrote Whitman.
Touch is the earth’s language and the children
speak it. . . .
for my eulogist, in advance
Do not praise me for my exceptional serenity.
Can’t you see I’ve turned away
from the large excitements,
and have accepted all the troubles? . . .
Live as if you were already dead.
All I can do is be me, whoever that is.
1. About the Dead Man and Dylan’s Names
To see more clearly,
we climbed the shifting sands
of the volcano. We read
in the guidebook that we might
be haunted if the mist & the light
were just right. Sure enough, . . .
Sealed with obsidian & red beryl
I could see a child inside
who dazzled the bottle beast &
I was afraid to release her
she was everything
her breath became my breath
. . .
When I was a girl in Wisconsin, I dreamed I ’d marry
a man from Michigan. Then I did. When I was a man
from Michigan, I dreamed I ’d marry a begonia,
flowers choked with pollen. When I was a flower
from Michigan, . . .
People were nice. I asked the priest
to wear my mother’s wedding dress during the sermon
about the difference between turning the other cheek
and looking the other way. . . .
For my stepdaughter Kari Harvey (23 December 1982–10 May 2016)
We know that we have passed out of death into life.
—1 John 3:14
Wherever we go we leave a thumbprint of the soul.
Ghosts of words we never said fill the rooms we leave. . . .
Because, while a war blooms at the margins
of the other country that claims me, still
I am here with my ordinary grief and its language.
Because every time I open my mouth
I am an Arab opening my mouth
. . .
I was cleaning the garage and then
the garage was clean. The voice
from the radio sounded shocked
by another mass shooting
but went on about the government
officials and their take on the violence,
which had nothing to do with pain
but was instead about elections. . . .
Because I was taught all my life to blend in, I want
my fingernails to blend out: like preschoolers
who stomp their rain boots in a parking lot, like coins
who wink at you from the scatter-bottom of a fountain, . . .
The end of the world
is not what’s wrong with me.
Old age, illness, and death
are not wrong. They just are.
A stone says, Wake up,
exactly this is all there is! . . .