She Didn't Even Wave
For Marilyn Monroe
I buried Mama in her wedding dress
and put gloves on her hands,
but I couldn't do much about her face,
blue-black and swollen,
so I covered it with a silk scarf.
I hike my dress up to my thighs
and rub them,
watching you tip the mortuary fan back and forth.
Hey. Come on over. Cover me all up
like I was never here. Just never.
Come on. I don't know why I talk like that.
It was a real nice funeral. Mama's.
I touch the rhinestone heart pinned to my blouse.
Honey, let's look at it again.
See. It's bright like the lightning that struck her.
I walk outside
and face the empty house.
You put your arms around me. Don't.
Let me wave goodbye.
Mama never got a chance to do it.
She was walking toward the barn
when it struck her. I didn't move;
I just stood at the screen door.
Her whole body was light.
I'd never seen anything so beautiful.
I remember how she cried in the kitchen
a few minutes before.
She said, God. Married.
I don't believe it, Jean, I won't.
He takes and takes and you just give.
At the door, she held out her arms
and I ran to her.
She squeezed me so tight:
I was all short of breath.
And she said, don't do it.
In ten years, your heart will be eaten out
and you'll forgive him, or some other man, even that
and it will kill you.
Then she walked outside.
And I kept saying, I've got to, Mama,
hug me again. Please don't go.
From The Collected Poems of Ai. Copyright © Copyright 2010 by Ai. Used with the permission of W.W. Norton & Company Ltd.
Ai was the author of several books of poetry, including Vice: New and Selected Poems (W. W. Norton, 1999), which won the National Book Award for Poetry.
Date Published: 2018-10-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/she-didnt-even-wave