for John Chir

The last woman at your empty grave
is grounding rosaries into the wind, is
stitching a history onto rice paper leaves, is
repeating your name and repeating
your name, is waiting for an echo.
The last woman at your empty
grave is interviewing the dark,
is carving memories between falling
stars, is clawing and re-clawing
the dirt, is searching the trees for
a witness. When the breeze traps
itself in the burrows of her scars,
the last woman at your empty grave
hears only carousel music. When
the marble ribbon of your name
unfurls itself, she shakes like a flame.
The rest of us are wearing party
hats, crouched in a darkened room
waiting to yell surprise for you
when you finally arrive. You are not
with the last woman at your empty
grave. You are in the room with us
wearing a hat. You are huddled
in the smallest corner, reaching out
and losing your hand in the dark.

Published in Open Thread 2010.


I know how to disappear.
I learned it from my mother
who learned it from her mother
and my great grandmother
who went poof! one night
right in the middle of dinner.
After that, my grandmother went,
in between white sheets hanging
on a line in the yard, poof!
Then my mother as she held me
in the hospital, leaving me squirming
on her flattened gown. Even as a baby,
I could see how it was done.
At home, I would catch the men
standing outside at night with their palms
turned upwards. Once a cousin brought home
a magic kit and everyone howled for days.
When I left, they watched me with binoculars,
the horizon dotted with reflecting eyes.
Here, no one believes me. They laugh
at me at dinner parties, spilling their drinks.
They tell me to prove it, and I would.
But it’s the kind of trick you can only do once.

Published in Open Thread 2009.