Wedding of Grief
Koda 1988

Her mother was rather tall,
strong, big boned and over weight.
She wore long, loose, cotton dresses
that made her look like an elongated pyramid
hovering over the slippered shuffle of swollen feet;
which seldom left the couch.
At the peak of the pyramid, her long sagging face
was both round and rutted
with deep lines in her jowls
and around her troubled eyes;
a mothers' eyes,
filled with excessive care and anxiety,
nestled in the wrinkled folds of years
of frustrated ineffectuality.

That's how I remember her
the last time I saw her.

My girlfriend flew back to L.A. alone
to help her mother through the chemotherapy,
So I didn't see her loosing her hair and her weight
Or see her cry from embarrassment
when her daughters had to help her relieve herself.
Nor did I suffer through the moaning
the pain
of being so close to her,
yet so far from the suffocating touch of the morphine.

I was told very little about these things,
but when my lover returned home to me
she would often stand alone at the window.
I remember watching her beautiful blue eyes,
focused upon nothing,
sitting in belligerent profile above cheeks so limp
I couldn't help
but picture her mother's face.

Days would pass, consumed with regular routine,
then suddenly tears would be running into my ears
as she hugged me long and hard.
"Your mom?" I'd say.
She would just nod, her cheek against mine.

She had been back less than a week when they called.
She sat alone in our bedroom, and cried.
I sat alone in the kitchen, and chained smoked,
Studying the table before me, for hours,
Never once seeing it.

She returned from the funeral a few days later,
saying that several people had mentioned
her having a pleasant glow;
like that of someone newly pregnant.
"I checked and discovered this lump in my tummy,
Do you think that could be what it is?"

Yes. Definitely. How could you not know?

Both of us unemployed,
Barely able to keep ourselves alive.
Second trimester, barely,
But enough to force the drive back to L.A.
We spoke only to her closest friends--
Her family had dealt with enough sadness as it was.

Alone in the car, in the parking lot of the clinic
In a part of town I didn't feel safe in
I waved at the little kids with their broad smiles
And avoided older ones with their hard stares.
There was no doubt.
We couldn't create another life
More painful than our own.

As we drove away, the silence
in the car was thicker
than the rattling whir
of the old VW motor and bald tires.
I asked how she felt.
She called her empty gaze back from the pavement;
said . . ."OK" . . . and honestly
tried to smile.

Both our hearts were dragging on the road behind us.

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