By: Natalie Shapero
Through it all—the usher’s nod, the Pachelbel,
the thousand psalms, the joke-misplacing
of the rings—I waited for the pause
to acknowledge the few scattered uncles
and friends too ill to attend. I waited for the silence
and the KEEP THEM IN YOUR THOUGHTS.
And keep them in my thoughts I did—I thought
of them so much that I missed all the dancing, all
the sling-back twirls, the forced displays
of riotousness, the cake. I missed all the children
being instructed not to touch the begonias,
and the paper lanterns almost catching fire.
I missed the plastic chimney glasses, emptied
of their cocktails, being set on a table and swept
down into a bag. I missed the part where they
honeymooned in Lisbon. I missed it
when they bought the house with the mudroom
and the mansard roof. I missed it when they retired
somewhere placid. I missed their birthdays, every
year, and then I missed it when they died
and were buried in the dirt with their jewelry on.
I was still sitting there at the rented table,
in front of a single charred onion on a skewer,
thinking of all the guests who had to decline,
thinking of them in hospitals, attended to by loved
ones who had little to say aside from
I HATE HOSPITALS, but whose tenderness
still carried through. I was thinking of the times
I have attempted to exit my body. I was thinking
of how I’d had nowhere to go. I was wishing
for a smaller body hidden within the body,
a purer place to which we might retreat.
I was wishing for a canny escape not only
from what is around us, but also from what
is pitiless and ambulant and tacky and can lodge
one layer beneath the surface layer of our very
skin. Only under that is where we are.
Natalie Shapero is the Professor of the Practice of Poetry at Tufts University and an editor at large of the Kenyon Review. Her poetry collections are Hard Child and No Object.