The Day They Buried Her

December 9, 2010
the day they buried her
I was too young to cry for long
but I was much sadder than I looked
my mother
her stretched belly newly hollowed
stood by my side
my days-old baby sister in her arms
tears running her makeup down her cheeks
they day they buried her
I looked down at her soft, old hands
the ones that taught me how to cheat at cards
now cataract
pale, and paper thin
the day they buried her
people I didn't know came to say goodbye
they all looked sadder than me
but it was all a show
I thought
they glared at me
as if to say
“shouldn't you be crying?”
but I was out of tears
and only now were they letting their fake, unworthy tears fall
they saved them till today
mine were far past spent
they never knew her
not for real
when they were small
were wrapped in a towel
by her then strong, sure hands
after she washed my hair in the old claw-foot tub
and she'd complain
“you smell like a wet chicken!”
when I was dry, and fresh and smelled of her powder
she was teasing
the day they buried her
they had a bowl of the same kinds of mints
that she used to have in her living room
I remember
they sat next to the music box
and under the curtains where the ladybugs lived
the day they buried her
I couldn't tear my eyes away
from her face
not the face I new
my last image
last memory
was sunken and stretched
with the wrong glasses
and lips blood red with makeup
the day they buried her
I put a tiny yellow snap dragon in her hands
to take with her
where ever she was going
and remind her of the days
she would send me outside
pots banging in the kitchen
window thrown open for the smoke
to pick bunches of wildflowers for her table
and I would come back
with handfuls of crushed violets
and bluebells
and daisies
and so many snapdragons
she would braid the extras in my hair
while I sat very still
and tried not to fidget
the day they buried her
was the first day
I wished I had more time
now a familiar old friend of a wish
it made me feel old then
and I did get older, I suppose
but then
we're always getting older
the day they buried her
I was glad
she had gotten to meet my sister
held her in her shaky hands
my mother's hands still on the baby too
just in case
and she had peered out from half blind eyes
and smiled her sagging face
her lips cracking till they bled
and she proclaimed the baby fat and strong
an my mother and I were silent
because we both knew the baby was too small
we would let her think that though
if that's what she saw
we weren't going to correct her
the day they buried her
I realized
I hadn't thought people actually died
not the ones I loved, anyway
they day they buried her
my friends gave me hugs
but I pretended well
I was over giddy
they all looked confused
I said
I was fine
wasn't it time to get some lunch?
I like your shoes
the day they buried her
I wasn't thinking of my friends
but of the huge dinners
pies, and pickles in a flat glass bowl
that she would make
and that time my uncle bought her a new kitchen sink
and all the jokes
I didn't get
'everything AND the kitchen sink!'
now I understand
the day they buried her
I called her phone
and left a message on the machine
telling her I'd miss her
and that I would look for snapdragons for her in the spring
the day they buried her
I didn't know
that I would get a present from her next Christmas
because she bought them so far ahead
she picked it out
and I got to open it
I heard her laugh in my mind
and imagined the bony hug I would have gotten
these days I'd be taller than her
the day they buried her
they shut the lid
and I felt claustrophobic for her
I hope she wouldn't hurt
or suffocate
and the white gloved boys carried her out
and I wished she could be free
instead of stuck in a box
but that's only her shell, I reminded myself
the day they buried her
I didn't have time to say goodbye
I was too busy disbelieving
that that was really her

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