after Paul Kelly
Afterwards I wear the same clothes
for days, one sleeve torn from shoulder
to cuff and flapping like a scarf of old skin.
A friend I’ve never met is holding my hand
and we are looking back at what I’ve left:
some sleepy reunion on a hill heavy
with wild grass, a lone pine casting its net of shade,
a short picket fence. I watch you drop a daisy
in the grave. My brother has his arms around
my sister, his face pressed against her hair.
And of course my mother is there,
a garden spade in one hand, the other in yours.
My friend hurries me toward a stand of black oaks—
we pass through chaparral and sagebrush, a patch
of poppies in an open field; they’re glowing
in the evening air, orange petals tipped with gold.
Later I’m alone, flying above houses, the turquoise
swimming pools, dark lawns. I drift through
an open window and float above our bed.
It’s your shape there below me, wearing a shirt
I left in the hamper. You keep to one side
as if I’m there, and though the curtains flutter
in my wake, I’m just a draft, invisible as air.
You pull the sheet tight to your chin as I circle
close to the ceiling, the dust lifting
from the lampshade, the doilies on the bureau
rustling beneath framed photographs.
And when I leave, the curtains follow me out
the window, empty nightgowns
forgotten by the ghosts who used to wear them.
I pause there above the hedgerow.
I tuck the curtains back into the room.