The Innisfree Poetry Journal

by Renee Emerson

Naomi at the Wake

My sons’ widows are in the yard, entertaining, in a way. Shaking
hand after hand, accepting a hug, drawing in close to someone
as if drawn from the deep waters of overgrown crabgrass and clover.
The church handyman offered to come mow before the wake
but I told him no, let them see a little of our loss, or “share”
in it, as they say.  Here the girls hug and dab at the eyes; in privacy,
the girls wail. I stay in the kitchen, eternal, a ticking
clock, and arrange casseroles like bought plots of land; dip serving
spoons into the mash of cheese, potato, egg; pass out paper plates.
Nothing is expected of me here. My daughters-in-law are beautiful,
exposed in the yard, two mirror figures like displaced shadows.
One always planted her garden with summer vegetables, the other
with show flowers. I wonder sometimes what that meant for my sons,
in their marriages. I see little of myself in either woman.
To them grief is a broken pattern—the half-V  of migrating geese, the clover
with four leaves, the fair-haired child in the family. Often, as a young mother,
I had the nightmare of my sons dying, by kidnapping, car, drowning
in the strong arm of the local river. I was vigilant. And I watch now.

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