I dig her up and plop her down in a wicker chair. She’s going to make apple sauce and I’m going to get drunk. She’s cutting worms out of the small green apples from the back yard and I’m opening up a bottle. It erects like a tower in the city of my mouth. The way she makes apple sauce it has ragged strips of skin and spreads thickly over toast. It’s infamous; eating it is as close to God as I’m going to get, but I don’t tell her. There’s a dishtowel wrapped around her head to keep her jaw from falling slack— Everything hurts. But I don’t tell her that either. I have to stand at the callbox and see what words I can squeeze in. I’m getting worried. If I dig her up and put her down in the wicker chair I’d better be ready for the rest of the family to make a fuss. I better bring her back right. The whole house smells of cinnamon and dust. We don’t speak. She’s piling the worms up in a bowl and throwing them back into the yard.
Someone told Mom it takes six months to realize
someone is no longer on the planet.
On a commuter plane from Portland to Seattle
it was exactly six months later,
on the tiniest plane in the world.
I broke out in hives
like a nun blushing all over for God—
a sweeping bloodshot victory
while the other feelings starve—
the plane shook, and I grabbed the leg of the woman sitting
next to me.
She looked taken aback, then returned to her real-
without a word
while silvery tears rolled down my face onto a
book called VALIS,
which was open onto the first page.
Strangers shake in the breeze of my cannonball looks—
out the round window I could see below me
and the same repeated genus of spruce.
I happened to have a pamphlet with me, Important Trees of
from 1968. I opened to the swamp cottonwood, which grows
in Mom’s front yard.
Whenever I fly
I feel that I’m being forced to accept my own death.
And now, simultaneously,
I was being forced to accept the death of someone
I knew that once I accepted it, I could accept the free sample
of local Washington beer in plastic party cups the
flight attendants came around with
like a blessed and bitter medicinal syrup
pulled from a prehistoric wheat.