For M, 1938-2010

Grief wants her lean and pink
taking the sidewalk in warm sandals
and a summer dress. Her tenth June
is a hard plum’s shine. The sun is cotton.
Here’s honey in the light
and a car-horn two blocks behind
that has no grip on her body, loping
under the poplars.
Grief says Just now let her be lonely:
it will make the next part sweeter

and puts her sisters ahead on the curb,
the skin on their knees
shining like a wedding. Let her laugh
with them, spin down to the grass.
She can kick her feet high
and swing a shoulder
through the smallest girl’s hair
then rise up still laughing. Grief needs
a red-brick house on the corner
for her to enter. Grief will build it.
And a mother in the kitchen, bent over
some steam lifting. It’s time
for her to touch her mother’s arm,
walk past her to the rose-red chair
with the book in it. It’s time to sit
and let her face find the words like a pulse.
She has all afternoon. Grief wants her back
to the window as the light moves, which it will.
What happens next? I didn’t know her then,
I wasn’t even born. Grief won’t know
her now on the couch at seventy,
curled and mottled
in a pale nightgown. Grief won’t
moan her name. Take her like this instead:
twill pinafore, book in the lap, sprawling back
into dark roses, summer’s arms.