Memory—died August 3, 2015. The
death was not sudden but slowly over a
decade. I wonder if, when people die,
they hear a bell. Or if they taste
something sweet, or if they feel a knife
cutting them in half, dragging through
the flesh like sheet cake. The caretaker
who witnessed my mother’s death quit.
She holds the memory and images and
now they are gone. For the rest of her
life, the memories are hers. She said
my mother couldn’t breathe, then took
her last breath 20 seconds later. The
way I have imagined a kiss with many
men I have never kissed. My memory
of my mother’s death can’t be a
memory but is an imagination, each
time the wind blows, leaves unfurl
a little differently.
Clothes—died on August 10, 2015. We
stuffed them into lawn bags to donate.
Shirt after shirt, button-down after
button-down, dress after dress, limb
after limb. A few leapt out to me like
the flame from a nightmare, the kind of
flame that almost seems human in its
gestures. I kept those. I kept the
hundreds of pencils. I am writing with
a pencil from my mother’s drawer. It
says Detroit Public Schools, where she
taught. Each sentence fights me. Once
we rolled her downstairs, played
croquet and putt putt golf. She sat and
watched, her vacant eyes not seeing
anything we saw. As if she were
looking beyond us, beyond the sun.
The days of August already made a
certain way that she could see and we
couldn’t. I left her in the sun too long.
One child doing cartwheels on the grass
as my mother looked on, wearing the
white blouse with the small pink
flowers swirling in a pattern. I kept the
stare. I kept the flowers. And I
donated the vacant shirt.