Our Greek friend told me that in his country
one funeral is not enough.
The body is dug up in six months’ time.
Maggot-stripped bones are put
in a box and slid into the stone shelf
of an ossuary. The family is gathered
together again. This, the ritual
his mother and sister love.
At last or for once I entertain the thought
that maybe women wanted it:
to be the earth to which all bodies
are returned by interment.
That persistent uttering of the womb-tomb
scenario—we couldn’t have said it better
ourselves, might have said it
ourselves. And why not take it all
on, redeem our shortcomings?
The gurglings of our psyches
and our most haphazard
remarks made visionary:
A woman blessing a fence,
tapping first this part
then another, then the grass
at the post, stepping away
to pass by, coming back to tap more.
My pelvis shifting—the pain
of your thrust like a memory
of a child’s head trying
to escape, a memory
that hasn’t happened yet.
The seanchaí’s tale of the bountiful cow
wandering off to die
reprinted in the paper and read out over breakfast
like a horoscope for all born
under the sign of ingrate.
Even still, a distant relation’s letter
about her son’s disease—
When I look at his suffering,
I think of what our Blessed Mother
must have gone through—
makes me wonder who
‘our blessed mother’ is,
and try to remember
who this woman’s
mother is, to me.
We fail to grasp even the usual
symbolism or become self-important.
And when asked to explain why
all the trouble over the six counties
while eating meat-laden salads
in America you said of the Queen—
We must remember that most
of the word symbolic is bollicks.
Of course. The Greeks have double
funerals because of a space shortage.
The woman with the fence is mad.
The cow story couldn’t happen in real life.
And yet you drove me to the stream,
the stream that held your mother’s ashes,
on the day I arrived in this strange country.