First to grandmother’s, whose grief is refined,
Weathered, that is to say, on the other side of the family,
To eat late and hear the story of our lives—and how she “just laughed
And laughed and laughed” when so and so
Did such and such,
To occupy her room occupied by a ghost
Charmed within picture frames—silver, dusty.
To Bristol. Bristol to Roanoke.
A forgotten beauty, that is to say, lost in the mines
Of unrefined remembrances,
The quilt of late October laid
To warm the foothills. A drive worth the drive.
Hours, if given back, which would be re-spent identically.
A fast-food meeting with grandfather, whose grief
Is engrained—ravined and veined—in the skin,
Laden in eyelids. Arby’s. Freezing.
Could they turn down the air? Sorry but no.
Life’s refrain is restraint, apology, coda. With feeling.
Our little caravan stops at a church. Out we pile and stretch and moan.
If they got ‘em, uncles and step-aunts are smoking.
Children of cousins duck behind cars. Bashful—a word,
Come to think of it, only uttered on occasions
Like this. Like this:
So many hugs, I lose count. Fewer tears but still many.
Mostly smiles, faint recognitions, empathetic nods.
Songs—favorites of the pain-free man in ashes,
Traces of morphine, maybe, but certainly no trace of need—picked
And strummed as he would have done,
As he once showed me how.
A dinner of sandwiches after.
Hugs of departure. Lumped throats. The usual,
That is to say, the common way for strange
Days like this.
Turning for home, the Peaks of Otter,
Scapulas of blue earth in early evening,
Heave into the sky where the Hunter’s Moon
Exsanguinates all else.