The Dead Are With Us
The dead are with us when they sing.
Though we can’t see them anymore,
they sing in very little things.They sing in clinking wedding rings,
in zippers of the clothes they wore.
The dead are with us. When they sing,we hear their teaspoons jangling
in the corners of our kitchen drawers.
They sing in all the little things.Their voices are not sparkling,
not melodious or pure,
but they are with us when they sing,and we prefer that-anything!-
to silence, to the words no more.
We look for every little thing,each pocket, box we can explore.
We feel them with us when they sing,
and that is not a little thing.
Brother body is poor . . . we need a fortune
for him. He used to be the wealthy one,
so pardon him his wretched little moods.
And if he acts as if we’ve never met,
let fall a subtle hint of what’s in common.We’re well aware we’re not one solitude,
but two: our consciousness and He;
we owe each other so much gratitude-
just how it is with friends! We learn how tough
it is in sickness-comrades have it rough! Rainer Maria Rilke,
translated by Terese Coe
On Sunday evening, after the party ends
and family have gone, you’d love to say
how you can’t bear this gathering each May.
Your thoughtful husband usually sends
a rose bouquet, but changed his mind this year:
a special gift, it makes your finger shine
with emerald and ruby. Too much wine,
he banters as he wipes away your tear.
But you and I know, mother, what he can’t -
your April foolishness; how bit by bit
they snipped me out of you, took care of It;
how through the years I’ve been your confidante,
the reason for this night’s unraveling,
the garnet missing from the mother’s ring.
Plus ça Change
With variations on Amazing Grace
and second-liners yielding to the urge
to twirl their parasols and sway in pace,
New Orleans dances to a funeral dirge.It’s called a renaissance: the fabled place
of pleasure, which mad waters would submerge
and winds deform, is working on her face.Through Mardi Gras and festivals and shows,
her lovers freshen up her tarnished name;
the Quarter streets and bars that brought her famepropose their nonchaloir; the money flows
from FEMA and insurance. Who’s to blame
if politics and graft are still the game?
Catharine Savage Brosman