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.

Renee Emerson is the author of Keeping Me Still (Winter Goose Publishing, 2014). She teaches online poetry courses for Poetry Barn and Shorter University, and her poetry has been published in 32 Poems, Christianity and Literature, Indiana Review, and others. She lives in Arkansas with her husband and three young daughters.



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