What Happens When ~ A Sestina
What happens when the coffin lid closes
becomes the act of praying
silence to its very end.
Your face fixed, I see no more
of you looking back. In my memory's hold,
yesterday's already begun to fade.
I press my heart in the light that fades
with curtain drawn, fear to hear how a door closes
to give me this one last time to hold
your face in my eyes loathe to track shadows preying
in too-tight corners. I want to ask what more
comes of fifty-nine years abruptly brought to end.
You received the blessing and, at the end,
the incense, sprinkled. The misted smell, it fails to fade,
as if to make this one mysterious moment more
yours than some other just before. That lid closes
and we are reduced, as we always are, to praying
for you whom we cannot hold.
We walk hand in hand to your grave that will hold
a single space above you free. We know how this end
of ritual plays out, and so we stand and we sit, praying
the words to break the silence that too soon will fade
when we walk away. We push back what closes
in: the earth, the sky, our feelings. What we need we need more
of but not the dusk's quiet settling, as on heathered moor,
not the open stretch of rough road beckoning. What we hold
out are our arms, empty. We thrust and parry, and still it closes
in, your death, bringing to inevitable end
the light we clutch and tug for. What we might wish would fade
your going makes bright this once, and leaves us praying.
So many days we have been praying,
the light broken by mourning into night, the night more
and less of everything, the known the unknown. Memory might fade,
or not. Memory might bid us hold
the firmness of last words, what cannot be spoken at the end,
what cleaves the heart when the door finally closes.
I want for more and nothing of the end
that breaks my hold on my image of you. Light does fade
when the door closes, and I, alone, am left praying.
© 2011 Maureen E. Doallas
My audio recording of "What Happens When":
Audio Recording of What Happens When ~ A Sestina by mdoallas
My other sestinas are:
Depths of Hungers
Memory of Stones, Reminders to Forget
After-Effects of Fire