Days of Cloth

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.
People die.
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Middle-aged women in outdated hats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
of remembrance.
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
through translucence.

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.

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