Poetry: Black Roses

Posted: September 24, 2014 in Uncategorized

Mourners file two by two at Magnolia Cemetery,
in a piercing New Orleans downpour.
A clown, in a striped suit, blows a trumpet and leads.
His notes are all wrong, but no one notices.
Someone has to be first, and it may as well be the clown.
In the car, I see through wet glass–a trail
of pretend mourners with blank faces.
It’s a day for frogs, hear them croaking for more rain.
Rain, frogs, people, death, some people are glad for death;
they don’t get out much and they knew him, personally.
Black veiled women, dressed in finery, follow
the procession, behind the clown.
They hold black umbrellas; all seem to fit the occasion.
I see caretakers lower the coffin, when I lean far enough.
The creaking is rusty and makes my ears hurt.
Black roses–I’ve never seen them at a burying.
The lady, in the long, black dress dragging through streams,
is Mama, the most beautiful mourner at the gathering.
I see black roses shredded in her gloved hands.
They’re wet and she keeps tossing them down into the grave,
one petal at a time. Wet roses on a coffin seem appropriate.
Mama didn’t know I heard them arguing that last night.
He yelled and ordered Mama to bring him warm milk with rum.
He made her cry, when he told her that:
he was leaving her for a younger woman.
My ear was to the wall and I heard him say he’d be gone
when the sun came up. It made me sad,
not that Papa was good to me or anything.
He never said a kind word to anyone that I recall,
except the young housekeeper, Agnes–she’s the one
he pinched on the backside when he thought nobody was looking.
When she left most nights, he left too.
Papa had a habit of playing cards when Agnes left
for the evening, except last night, he was home.
like he had a purpose–maybe to tell Mama he was leaving
–I thought hard on that part.
There was arguing and I heard Mama fall to the floor.
It wasn’t right.
I’m too old for dolls and toys, but I tidied up my room.
It was the right thing to do. Later, it was quiet.
Mama wasn’t crying anymore, but I heard him slam the door.
There was more noise after that. Stumbling, falling,
He cursed all the way down the spiral staircase
–one step at a time.
My china doll held my hand, when the man, I call Papa,
tripped over the toys I forgot to put away.
Tumbling, tumbling, tumbling and making lots of racket.
I stood and watched. There, he lay face up,
at the bottom of the stairs, with his eyes open wide.
His skin was pale like fluffy white clouds.
I had to see more; I had to know, I had to be sure.
His eyes were black and staring; he was alive,
trying to talk, but it was too late. I stayed and watched.
That’s when my china doll wanted to tell him goodnight.
He didn’t try to talk anymore after that.
We went to bed and left him at the bottom of the stairs.

Goodnight Papa.

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