I wanted to keep her rose-colored urn,
sit it on the coffee table in the midst
of my old newspapers, dirty dishes, and
outdated magazines with smiling
celebrities on the glossy covers.
I wanted to sit, have a cup of coffee,
and converse with her ashes, perhaps
take a spoonful and mix them into
the scalding liquid so I might taste her,
the earthy dust to which she’d been reduced.
I wanted to scoop my hands into her expanse,
sift her through my fingers, pour her out
onto the wood and trace doodles till the tips
of my fingers turned gray and my
palms became coated with pulverized bones.
I wanted to sprinkle her on the grass,
food and fertilizer to aid in the photosynthesis
of her cherished rosebushes and purple
irises planted around the perimeter
of her chain-link fence.
I buried her in White Chapel Memorial Gardens
on a February morning, the frozen air chilling the marbled urn,
while the priest said his obligatory prayers.
I prayed her ashes wouldn't solidify.
She wanted to go home,
to her cups of strong black coffee
laden with too much sugar,
to her books of crossword puzzles
and her treks to yard sales,
where she always found the latest
kitsch item to line her shelves.
The doctor told her the news.
Then, she told us.
Three weeks to live.
A decision made not to fight,
to let the metastasized masses
in her lungs claim her.
The ghosts of those words haunted
the narrow hallways of our ears,
and seemed loud, compared
to the steady, rhythmic beeps
of the monitor and the garbled
medical announcements made
over the intercom.
Laundered blue blankets did nothing
to keep the chill of winter from seeping into her bones,
and neither did the oddly crisp sheets.
She complained, in the days before
she spoke those damning words,
how it felt much colder here
than it did that gray Christmas morning
the ambulance ferried her away
to doctors in starched coats
scribbling on medical charts,
to nurses forcing shots
through her weathered, aged skin,
and a freeway of collapsed veins.
Sleep, once a necessity,
now a luxury. A time constantly interrupted,
even when she came home
with us on hospice--
to strong blue morphine
laden with a bitter taste,
to breathing treatments
to a hospice bed made up
with freshly laundered sheets
and covered by a patchwork quilt
made in those days
before her hands swelled
and she could not hold her pencils
or the handle of her coffee mug.
Before she could not go home
to rearrange her kitsch--
the brass elephants with trunks held high,
and the glittered butterflies
In between meals and restlessness,
she spoke of spring,
of planting roses and irises
and keeping a vegetable garden,
of walks around her neighborhood.
Dreams of spring vanished
as each week passed.
Winter made its claim.
She no longer felt the cold.
For the woman who gave me
my first sip of wine, after I asked
if it tasted like grape juice, or Kool-Aid.
For the woman whose seventy-seven
years of life ended up as minuscule,
For the woman who taught me
never to become an alcoholic:
not worth the investment or time.
For the woman who enjoyed
crossword puzzles, yard sales,
quilting, and a good cup of coffee.
For the woman who clipped coupons,
bought generics, and would have
blanched at an obituary’s price.
For the woman whose obituary
cost a little over two hundred
dollars, and would speak to frugality.
Brandy credits Robert Frost as her inspiration to start writing poetry. She wrote her first poem when she was 14 and hasn't looked back. She is currently a graduate student at Missouri State University, studying English (Creative Writing), and has work currently featured at The Camel Saloon. She lives at home with her motley crew: Rowdy, Hayley, and Layla (her three dogs), and has a personal blog about her adventures with writing and publication: brandydawnclark.blogspot.com