MONTHS AFTER


(For C.M.G.)


What I remember most clearly

is the color red -- red hair, 

red cheeks, your face 

a mirrored Ireland still

through masks of kohl and Fabergé;

that lobster skin when

characteristically in the Caribbean

you slandered pink, 

declared for brown, stretched

long arms to the sun

and swung for hours

in hammocked splendor, poached

like a glamorous egg.


I have heard your sisters sing

passing in flocks and going home

on Inishglora and the banks of Earne

pure tones in the pearl

of twilight;

met their pale beauty 

in that hard, poor land

and found the diffident

shy loveliness of strangers.

But not 

that hot intensity

beneath which friendships bloomed

as in a greenhouse, lush

with possibilities, the complex

silky richness of camellias.


And wonder now

if those bright dresses

racked in their lightless closet rows

like cardboard flowers

waiting to be born

stirred, shimmied a last time

with your odor,

shaped their slack threads

to your living form once more,

ready as always to embrace the moment

before they were thrown out

or given away.


Thinking of that and how

memory is merciless,

discarding like gamblers

what it cannot use,

and your desperate, impassioned,

fluid, lavish grace

reduced now to a thinning hand

of still photographs

I reread your obituary 

in four seconds

feeling you drift

like that yellowed 

curlicue:  last leaves


on a slow

November

wind.




Originally published in Poet Lore, Vol.  74 No. 1 (Spring 1979)