Open casket

March 12, 2010
By Anonymous

The flowers smell
like honey and salt:
springy and soft
on the mourner's tongues.

The black clothes
seem forced:
blurts of color peaking through—
a necklace,
a scarf,
a pair of mismatched socks.

I walk slowly,
so slowly
I can't feel my feet move,
through the throbbing mass
of helpless onlookers,
desperate to give solace
to the souls in need.

Pressing my fingers
against my palms,
I see the pictures:
they crowd the walls,
a collage of smiles and laughter,
throwing off the heavy air
and the dim lighting
of this space.

Here he holds her
as a baby (she's grown to look
so much like he did),
here he sits
in the Red Sox stadium,
proudly happy, triumphant and clear.

Here is their wedding picture,
his baby pictures,
their vacations and Christmases and Halloweens.

I feel the tears come,
the sobs, the shaking hands.
I console myself,
breathing slowly,
knowing that to cry
would only weaken them further.

I cover my abdomen
with my arms,
trying to ignore
the itchiness of my sweater,
and call back the memories
I have of him,
of her,
of them together—being a family.

Deep in the velvety shades
of my pocket,
there is a Kleenex ready,
full of potential outbursts
and realizations.

It's too painful
to look at him,
lying there still,
eyes shut,
with the offerings and books
and flowers all 'round him.

I think how impressive
their love for him is,
how passionately displayed,
how calmly organized.

Would I be able?
Would I hold myself together?
Would I bring flowers
to soften the blow?

Moving, so slowly,
I can't turn away,
can't look directly at him,
I'm forced to see him
from the corners of my eyes
as they embrace
their friends,
and hold their tears in calmly.

Here I am, now,
and their clutching fingers
hold onto my arms,
as if I am their anchor,
their armor,
their memories.

Love touches me,
makes me shiver,
makes me giddy and dizzy and strong and weak.

I touch them back,
hold her into me—
tightly, briefly,
feeling her loneliness
soak into my clothes.

I apologize—
why do we do that?
Why do we I'm sorry, I'm so sorry,
until our throats are raw and cleft with pain?

Now moving more quickly,
stopping, sharing secret sorrow,
unknown but appreciated,
with his parents—his brother—his in-laws.

Feel me! They scream at me,
their eyes pleading,
their fingers shaking,
Feel me so I know I'm real and right,
that this isn't a dream, that he's not just asleep.

They know that reality
makes more sense, now.

It's a part of them,
it's their world,
and to be dreaming,
to know that this is yet to come,
that would make of them
shells and trees stripped of leaves,
shivering, naked, in the winter air.

I try not to think,
but there it is,
the irreverent voice in me,
the untouched, callous, noisy brat
who rules me for one second
while I move, move,
down the row of relatives.

Their faces—
they get less sad, less broken,
as I shuffle through the crowd of smudged
mascara and tear-dampened sleeves.

They still burn,
of course,
they still hurt,
hoarsen at my approach,
but their pain is not
so brutal and delicate
as before,
and I am relieved and appalled at once—
I morbidly wish on them
more grief than they have.

Through them, now.
Through this smell and
this emptiness
and this fullness.
Through the chocolate rich sting
and the clearly muddy emotions,
and the inches
that separate burdens and weights.

It is like a tide,
and as I pull free,
pull forward,
I find myself trembling
on the edge
of this vast, insinuating audience.

I feel self-conscious,
painfully aware
that everything is wrong,
that nothing is fixable anymore.

I walk out into the cold—
watching as people come and go,
the sea never waning or waxing
in its depth.

I feel the burden of comfort
leave me,
and I break a little,
and begin to cry.

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