Wake and Wake

by Susan Kelly-DeWitt 

Once, while searching for an old photo, my mother unearthed an envelope that contained:

• My father’s obituary, dated 11/5/69
• A holy card (Saint Francis) from his funeral
• A dried four-leaf clover in clear plastic wrap
• A card with emergency air raid instructions
• Another card with a list of emergency alerts
o Air raid
o Ground attack
o Tidal wave
• A card explaining blood types, circa 1943: “Everyone’s blood is the best!”

“Madwomen weave gossamer around themselves that nobody can get through.” [Stephanie Golden, The Women Outside]

Mr. Y, carrying two crossed 2 x 4’s down his driveway, like Christ with the crucifix. (His stooped shoulders add to the image but his cropped white hair and plaid shirt detract.) And why shouldn’t he be a Christ? Though no crowds gather, only shadows of acanthus and sycamore, the sky is as blue as the Madonna’s robes.

The letter from the War Dept, postmarked 10/31/1944—an officer writing to tell my mother that her dearest love Oscar Sorensen (PFC) had been killed instantly by shrapnel from a grenade on Saipan. “He was an excellent soldier in every respect and died bravely.” Signed, Andrew B Campbell, 1st Lt. Chief Commanding Officer, 23 Oct 1944.

Maybe we volunteered for apocalypse,
lined up at the soul-bank, ready to donate.

Tranströmer: “We are at a party that doesn’t love us.”

How does a poet wake into some new part of the writing
life? Sometimes we hold a wake. We arrange the lighted
candles in a circle around our notebooks, invite the mourners,
recite the ancient texts. We step into the poems’ wake.
We keep watch and pray.


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