“Maybe death isn’t darkness, after all.” Mary Oliver
I. Facsimile Memory
I’m sitting on the edge of the cool, porcelain tub
watching you put on your makeup.
A scant coat of grit from the Ajax creates a little traction.
I look out the window on the left and the sun is crayon yellow—
hot August, your favorite month.
Green shadow, Maybelline mascara, a dab of liquid foundation,
pinkish-bronze lipstick. Done. Prepped
for the Ladies’ Luncheon at Highland Park Methodist.
II. A Dreamland
“Boo!” you shout, and I seize bolt-upright.
You’re wearing a white sheet over your head.
The eye holes reveal your fringe of dark lashes and shining green eyes.
You crook a finger and point to the corner of the bedroom.
The burled wood casket glows richly in the dim,
and a band of gold light bisects the top and bottom halves.
“Come on,” you say, and we approach.
You lift the lid; light pours out like fog from dried ice.
This is too much for me, even from you.
I step in and sink.
We come to a stop as if we’re riding an elevator.
Creosote and beer skunk the balmy air. It’s August here too,
maybe more than August. “Nah, this isn’t hell,”
you snicker. “That’s for the living.”
The Beatles blare, “I don’t know why you should want to hide…”
Electric green grass and pastel lawn chairs sprawl in the field.
I’m concerned there might be dogshit littered
in with the beer cans and chip bags.
“Don’t worry,” you laugh,
and I note you’re wearing a pink bikini.
We grab hot dogs from a red and white slapped-together stand.
“Let’s get a seat before the show starts.”
Tanned and muscled Brian Wilson whisks by
and hands us a couple of beers in paper cups.
“Forever Young” is printed on the cheeks of his board shorts.
I’m starting to sweat.
III. Curtains Up
Suddenly, it’s quiet.
Everyone sits up straighter.
Winsome melancholy violets the ambiance.
A full-on Viking warrior lumbers into the center of the field.
He’s woody and golden, leafy and oceanic.
He places his right hand upon his heart and speaks
with the voice of a thousand rivers.
What he says is silence. What he says is mystery.
IV. The Souvenir
Marsha turns to me,
“Does that answer your question?”
“Yes and no,” I say. “Let’s go home.”
You take my hand,
and I know