When it became impossible to speak to you
due to your having died and been incinerated,
I sometimes held the uncradled phone
with its neat digits and arcane symbols (crosshatch,
black star) as if embedded in it
were some code I could punch in
to reach you. You bequeathed me
this morbid bent, Mother.
Who gives her sixth-grade daughter
Sartre’s Nausea to read? All my life,
I watched you face the void,
leaning into it as a child with a black balloon
will bury her countenance
either to hide from
or to merge with that darkness.
Small wonder that still
in the invisible scrim of air
that delineates our separate worlds,
your features sometimes press toward me
all silvery from the afterlife, woven in wind,
to whisper a caution. Or your hand on my back
shoves me into my life.
“Pathetic Fallacy” from Sinners Welcome by Mary Karr. Copyright © 2006 by Mary Karr. Used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.