Wednesday, March 27, 1996


How come no one ever writes about
the roadside grave markers,
places where people have departed
to that undiscovered country
marked by crosses and plastic wreaths
in case they might want to return.
This place of death, more equivalent
than the place of birth, to memorialize.
There are too many markers
on my favorite stretches of road,
a sobering reminder of the temporality of life.

How come there are no words in English
for these places of personal departure?
Is there a word in Spanish? Liminal?
How come no one ever sees the family
of the dearly departedm planting marigolds there,
refreshing them each Dia de los Muertos,
drawing from the tradition of the Celts
and the Indian together
in their current memorization of death's doors.

Do we go on to another existence
or is there nothing but nothingness?
The denial of departure spawning
eternal generations of ghosts and philosophers
baling forever to their point of departure.

It makes me think of geometric progression
and the diminishing planes of perspective,
seemingly coming to a finite point
but always fooling the eye,
like a long hard road in the desert.
Seemingly vanishing into a lake of the sky,
only to go on and on like infinity itself,
until the edge of the continent ,
makes it define its boundaries.
Marigolds and skulls made of sugar for the dead.

I've never written about the elemental reduction
of my mother into bleached coral reefs
aligning the beaches of paradise.
How my mother wanted the ocean
to be her last road, but I've kept her in a box
all these years, a prisoner of my own inability
to articulate grief, while my father is moldering
in a lead-lined casket in the city of the dead.
Even if I could pour some whiskey over his bones,
the lead denies his egress
into where we come from,
our mother, the earth.

I think of Carolyn Kizer's mother
lost in the closet full of size 11 shoes
for a small eternity. Banishment
takes such a strange forms.
My mother lounges in a cardboard box,
and easy prison to break out of
for the more sentient inhabitants
of that room.

27 March 1996
Alexander Valley School

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