Saturday, March 6, 2010

Front Stoop Poem for You, Two Days After Your Death

The starlings are going
through their stilted motions, hunting
and pecking and gathering. This one troops
down the rain-sputtered sidewalk--
in his jaw, a piece
of spring's profuse litter,
a cluster of seedlings.
For a nest, I suppose.
I don't know why I tell you this.
You never liked starlings. You despised them.
They were loud, like the drunks you served.
You'd close down the pub, get home
at five a.m., lie in bed with the sheet
over your face, and wish
you could shoot them
one by one.
They blackened the tree outside your window, screamed
just to see the sun.

I should think of something nicer to write
than how you hated cute little birdies.
You were my friend
for thirteen years. I should come up
with something better. I could write
what you loved: me, for example,
Diamond Dogs by David Bowie,
squirrels and fine scotch,
chicken curries from Pho Grand,
slingers from the Buttery,
the green velvet dress you got for me
from the AmVets Thrift Store on Grand--
you loved that place--and thick stacks
of pancakes from Uncle Bill's,
your mom's collard greens with bacon,
your granny's macaroni and cheese--
you ate more than anyone I ever met,
all one hundred-fifteen pounds of you--
you loved snow globes, Scrabble, your nieces,
silk ties from the twenties,
prank calls, Jimmy Stewart,
your blue bowling shirt...

The list isn't you. Nor is this poem,
which, I know, is kind of long.
Nothing is you but you, and
you're gone, but that just can't be,
so I stare at the starlings
who have survived you,
all their days spent in tiny motions
of sustenance. I resent all the people
on my street who aren't you.
I give them the St. Louis Stink-Eye
just because they have the nerve to exist.

I turn the ring you gave me
on my bony finger, the only ring
that ever fit. I wait on the stoop
for your friend to pick me up
to go through your things, to find
a shirt for you to wear to your funeral.
I think I'll wear the sexy green dress
with extravagantly high heels.
It's not appropriate, but neither were you.

Today it's cold, and the car is late,
so I keep writing, and the poem
doesn't end. I don't want
it to. Besides,
I don't know how.

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