by Maria Isabelle Carlos

         in memory of Auntie Edwina


How predictably my mind caroms

over an image of death: the clichéd crow

still as stuffed in a gutter-puddle of leaves

ripened by rain, feathers glossy as if 

freshly-preened for the occasion, as if 

a suit of shiny fabric pressed and creased 

by an exacting mortician. One upturned eye 

holds a crescent sheen in her unwavering 


               I cast the dead crow into tragedy 

and already the melodrama simmers, the poem

a meditative monologue to the dulcet tune

of a solo-piano soundtrack—No, I think,

something dry, something satirical, 

resistant to metaphor—I festoon the claws

on each foot, unsheathed, slate-gray,

with language, then strip adverbs, sculpt 

lines, braid narratives, decouple stanzas,

betting on a volta

                                through which she might

surface in the poem—what I’ve wanted

all along: her hands flying to her mouth

to feed herself a laugh, or the pot-lid that taught me

patience, and the small rain it made over

sliced eggplants steaming in soy sauce and water,

while she rolled lumpia at the table, cooing me

to leave it alone…

                                 Do you find my grieving 

irreverent? The poem is a room I build, hoping she 

might stay. Or the poem is the door, is the wizened

oval table, is the creamy-colored curtain shifting 

in the room’s singular window. I can never

get it right. I circle death like an omen, pulsing, 

to draw more death toward me, to write my way

into its starry-jawed throat, praying this time, 

this time, I might hear her laugh from across 

the creaky table once again.

                                                The poem is a lamp

the eye carries when stilled. The poem is no one 

in the room to see through the window what has just

lifted from a tree, its flight unbearably inhuman.


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