hospice angels

by Grace Collins
for ellen l. collins
i. a hollowing
         —and through loss      
we learn to become
professional mourners
art acts as a dumb
and droning
eulogy that extends far longer
than the joke of death
until the only things we
  remember of                               
the dead are abstractions
a shade of violet
a whisper                            
hanging in the hall                           
a grotesque with
riverbeds carved into their forehead
                                       we are taught that                  
the mannequin in the coffin is a hoax
                                     a critique from nature:                                                     
creation is an illusion        
all is entropy                  
the podium is taken by relatives
and good friends and lovers
 far more dead than
the sawdust and formaldehyde
stinking fragrance central in the room                 
and they talk a great deal about how they and their
memories used to dance 
at the edge of the river and now everything is a metaphor of river
holy is the river of jordan
holy is pulaski bristol front royal roanoke lynchburg blacksburg
how unnerving is the threat of cancer as a biological entropy
    how appalling is 
        a vision with tubes in the nose and smoking out of the bathroom
    window and how the home is turned into
     hospice sterile and catheters and
andand—the mountain the mountain here
zion sweet your god your heaven where is the
oh my god o— 
holy is how they stop breathing we wait for the next inhale that
never comes and it never comes and it
and tears streaming and mucous 
    cannot revive this limp cold mass
gather gather here is the body here is what you love
we a copse of mourners rooted about the
deathbed wreathe the body in sorrows and proclamations and 
    anointments and tender andand            and
ii. a closing 
some nights i am 
weeping and you
are a closed door
iii. a history
you who are the halo orbiting my tongue 
you whose blood is pith and oil
you who held my hand in supermarkets 
you who lived pregnant with cancer until 
it born itself from your corpse
you who drinking your own bile saw your
sister in the corner of the room
who was there to lead you
into heaven
you who are the blue jacket i wear in rain
you who in my heart are everything i love
and hate about the holy bible
you who raving sought out the ghost of
my grandfather in a country song
you who sang me lullabies wearing the skin 
of an alligator
you who half asleep sent me away knowing
we would never see each other again
you who died as i slept on a train
dreaming political shouting and
weeknight game show
you whose ashes sit on my mother’s shelf
you who dreamt very little and never had
the time to write your memoirs
you who come into my dreams and are well
but even in my dreams are still dying
you who are a dream messiah
you who screamed
you who stumbled through the house bleeding
womanhood trailing down your leg
you who bled yourself out for two years
you who first held me because my mother was
soaked in delirium
iv. a closing pt. 2 
the scar across your abdomen
[from the surgery that time you had a hernia]
used to dance from left to right and your
broken ankle reminded me that 
    humans are fragile things
i remember you speaking in a rough untrained voice
eyes searching my face like a child
i could have sworn you were frightened
you were taking me in 
clinging to what
you had left of me
i closed your door and let you sleep