The Dead: A Collection


No one knew
his name
to write
the email:
his brother

It was sudden.
Then dead.

The email went out:
“his brother”

But I know
And his


Always one to walk up the mountain,
scraps of food in his pockets
to treat every stray along the way.

Until they are too broken to climb,
old buddies traveled with,
ending at whiskies and coconut water.

On Three Kings' Day, candies
would fill his pockets to gift
the kids who ran up to him

orange knee’d with the stamp
of the clay soil that choked flowers,
yet held a palm tree firm.

I tried to climb that mountain once,
but it was too steep, and my
flat feet were not used to the pound.

He laughed and said, ok, you stop here
and I’ll catch you on the way down,
we’ll have a nice glass of wine.

My name always rolled off of his tongue
thick with accent and an old English-
cultivated in the life of his island home.

Once he put on the counter all of the
makings for his specialty dish:
octopus and shrimp ceviche.

Come, he said, I will show you how,
some garlic, capers, onions,
chop up the tentacles  chunky.

Mix together with olive oil and vinegar,
ah, this is the best, from home,
we’ll have wine and maybe some whiskey.

“Ann has expired.”

Hearing the ring first
in the middle of sleep,
I slipped the phone
into the cradle as
my mom spoke
to the stranger.
Crawling back
into the twin bed
between my sister’s
two to safe harbor
from the October chill,
I wondered what
I had heard meant.

I was sixteen when she died.

My memories of her are
rich, embellished, fine;
she was a sable fur that
lay languorously across a
settee on Park Avenue
for someone else to store.
She helped us escape
routines of dull suburban
Saturday afternoons
enchanting us with meanders
through forest and untraffic’d
roads in a 1968 red Mustang,
stopping for cones or root beer floats.

Her nails were polished pink, her cologne: Chanel.

My grandmother has come back
to me thirty-six years later
on a motel’s note paper
that I don’t recognize.
Her verse betrays her heart,
and in images that I don’t connect
to her, she comes alive in me
as I wonder about the presence
that inspires gorgeous feeling
in a fantastic merry-go-round
love that she writes about.

She was a poet. 

To this I cling, thrown back
to the narrow child’s bed
in a dark room full of
my younger sisters' sleep
undisturbed by the night call.
Grief finds me now
when I can’t fathom
who this woman was that lived, 
too young my sweet years then
to wholly know.

Jen’s Grandma

She was dead. As a door nail.
But she looked great. Really.
Her tiny nails polished red,
nose powder dusted.

They found the dress she
wore to her grand-daughter’s
wedding in the back of the closet:
black velveteen with sparkles,
she’ll be dancin’ in heaven surely.

In her repose, her memory found
its way back – her brow free of
loss and confusion. Pretty settled.
Even her spectacles magically
resurfaced to find her face.

Mourners chatted easily about,
her life was lived long and
they were used to her in it,
but I’d never seen her before and
there is no doubt about it,
she was dead. But she looked good.

The Box

An inheritance
arrived in a box,
thousands of letters
and photographs
too heavy to carry.
In his journal-
I was in third person.

He drank
himself to death
found days after
his heart exploded.

I did not
warn him
of his indulgence-
blind to influence
to make a difference.

We were young, love
came like quicksilver:
willful      fragile.
We spent time,
his other time

She calls every night
I am the connection
to a dead son:
did the box arrive, dear?
I don’t pick up, how
she never called him.

he stands in the corner
watching my sleep-
safe from his demons
I suspect.

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