by Candy M. Gourlay
Thin winter, this year of death –
funerals abundant as wild ivy
clawing up suburban walls.
A starving need is growing
like algae in my belly.
I seek proof from death columns
in the Classifieds, like dope
to dull a nagging sense
that we were singled out –
stoned on knowledge
that we all go the same way.
I threw up before I left the house.
Black ink of another eulogy
bubbles acid in my gut.
Red wine in a highball at ten-am
has become my means to settle
trembling hands and voice.
Below its scarlet veil, the ache persists.
Since his suicide, people
have dropped like Chernobyl flies.
Processing relatives, life is a high
speed liquidizer blowing blades of reason.
Scribbled words on scrap paper
substitute worry beads.
Absently, my fingers roll them
into a cigarette.
I would give a toe to smoke them.
Pieces of me want to explode
with laughter, to drown the quiet
with a spray of raucous hysteria.
Silence is a lawnmower trimming sanity.
Middle-aged women in outdated hats
greet me. Surely they are not as old
as they look.
I seek solace in the gardens
Six months since summer
pretended to be autumn, since
soft rain fell out of heaven
while we interned his ashes.
More gravel than ash – like discarded
fragments of shell.
Like many things, they are different
than I had imagined.
In all this unnamed grass
where do I find him?
Eight footsteps from the bench
twelve from the oak.
With downcast eyes, I watch
ants move house.
My mother says she can feel
the peace, says she senses
the presence of rest.
I sense neither.
I am bitter and cannot disguise it.
The sky doesn’t care, it’s blue
and water sun pisses down
Inside the cold tomb of worship
to a god with whom I argue
I receive silent nods from faces
whose names I cannot recall.
Cloth of invisible blood stains
shrouds a small coffin.
Robes a mile long walk the plank
to alters of incense and small
bells on ribbon echo into stone.
I imagine Sunday sermons
to educate the masses
‘before it’s too late’ emphasised
with water, a hundred burning candles
and young boys wearing dresses.
I wonder if the priest remembers
when we blasted these leaded lights
with ‘Every Breath You Take’
while shell-shocked mourners
poured from church doors
after the funeral; or how we sang
‘Imagine’ and -everybody hurts…
sometimes- chipped voices
trailing to a twelve string guitar.
He signals me to the pulpit.
I unroll my cigarette eulogy, clear
the sawdust from my throat:
‘a precious lady left this world
during the small hours…’
Cold sun burns a hole through stained
glass windows and maybe normal
is about finding an audience
just as desperate.
Give me one and I promise to perform.