Friday, April 27, 2012

26 of 30 Elegy for Nolda Risener

You owl-white ghost, rheumy and yellow-eyed
your voice a death-beetle tick, a moth wing
and you deaf as headstones.
Laboring to move, slow and deliberate
a tortoise, ancient as god and death
your hands like stained paper,
nails ivory and cruel.
You terrified. Great grandchildren dared each other
to tell you a joke, and you'd lean in, slow and terrible
toothless, clouded, not quite blind.

Old Regular Baptist,
at your graveside no devil's instruments
but a palsied, liver-spotted choir,
in lined- out hymnody sang
Amazing Grace, ten thousand years.

They demanded to open your casket
at the graveside, the grandchildren
that you mothered, and we, their
toy children, too young to be discarded
watched,in polyester suits
squinting in Kentucky sun
as they clawed at you.

In your baby-blue casket,
Your dress white as christening.
Your mouth open to sing.

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