The Innisfree Poetry Journal
by David Lee Garrison
On a Line by Thomas Lynch
Life goes on. The dead are everywhere.
They make the floorboards creak like ships at sea,
they wink from glistening streetlights here and there.
They read the book we’re reading, touch our hair.
They walk beside us though we cannot see
or hear their steps. They constantly declare
themselves in letters we have saved. We stare
at those who favor them. The cypress trees
protect their souls like nesting birds. They are
not “in a better place,” they’re here. In air,
in water, earth, and fire. The timpani
of life beats on in death. This world is where
they linger, waiting for us. Say a prayer
for the dead, that they may always be
around us, with us, in us, in the flare
of memories so we do not despair.
They make their way across the river, we
can only see them off. We’re in their care
as life goes on. The dead are everywhere.
Martha trailed behind her parents,
who made a grand entrance
at family gatherings, waving
to everyone like politicians.
Pushing forty, she was fading
deep into their shadows:
her parents talked too much
but Martha rarely said a word.
I wondered why she never married
or brought a man around.
There was a man, my mother told me.
Her parents disapproved of him.
When he proposed, they begged her
to turn him down, offered her a mink
as a bribe. She took the coat
and no man asked again.
After she inherited, Martha began
to suspect the motives of men,
even those she barely knew.
She believed male interest in her
sprang not from who she was
but what she had.
She quit her accounting job
and moved out to the lake.
Her body hidden in shapeless dresses,
Martha would come to our house
at Christmas and hand my mother
a bottle of French champagne.
I would help her off with her coat
and hang it in the hall closet,
sweeping several others aside
to give it room, to let it breathe.
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