Things I learned about death
Mainly a sacred lie they tell you – the sacrificial slaughter of a potato bug, a cockroach you stepped on in the garage on the first humid day of spring – the kind of guttural spasm that can leaves you doubled over in a open field, cell phone in hand, left only with the overhang of sky and the strange realization that the only words that can be plucked from your tongue are an observation that there is mud on your shoes, that you have sunk into the mud, and continue to falter and shatter as though you were made of earth and had become immobile to your own weight, to the same space you occupy, that you exist outside of your peripheral, that you have suddenly developed an extrasensory capacity to experience your own out of body experimentation – you have become dead yourself, the truly dead are just gone.
when the cockroach died, when I stepped on the cockroach in a panic I did not realize what I was doing, but breath caught in my throat and I was stung with stillness.
the carcass lay on the concrete for days until I got enough courage to get a broom and sing: "la cucaracha" in a phantom whisper and sweep it away.
my grandmother is a dragonfly, or so my mother tells me.
she will say something, something, something, something, something, anything, anything, anything just to make the quiet of her own spectral image evaporate into so much steam, she will wash her hair in dirt, and stand on the lawn in the strange elliptical indigo of heat, she will stand in the shadow of the houses' mausoleum, the window screens are ribbons tied together in forget-me-knots, and the dog is limping through the bushes, time stands still, and Travis is walking across a open roadway, Travis is smiling at me, Travis has tumors the size of golf balls in his brain, and Travis and I are in elementary school gushing about the first time we both openly discussed attraction with a member of what had now become the opposite sex, and
Jessica was on a plane – Jessica was on a plane back from spring break – Jessica was in an ambulance, but the poem does not belong there, the poem belongs in the perspective of sensory rejection. The poem belongs to the black-white-silvery machinery of noir-like livelihood; the poem belongs to the teeth of a yawning lion, belongs to the old American songbook, the old cotillion, a caterpillar on a brittle leaf; the poem belongs to the lead that holds the soul to its moorings, and the motion that drags it from one side of the eyeball to the other.
The poem belongs to the space of time that I will never again be in, that my body can never regress to, even the mind humiliates itself in its petulant ramblings, even the night, stretched so wide and lovely cannot endure her willowy fingers; knuckles provocative dance with pen and paper and things that burn and drown all inside the same echoing sentence; the same moonlight that becomes the subconscious so well it strains the birds to think of it; strains their wings to bat themselves free of it,
I have learned nothing about death that could not be found in a poem.