This one’s soul stayed with his photo.
Lapis sparrows on silver hoops
Swing from hooks in her lobes.
She stoops to load printer paper.
He is standing behind her
Blowing at them. He is trapped,
Not in the picture, but in its vicinity.
It is the last record of his physicality;
His change persists. A kind of purgatory.
A house arrest. To be to time braceleted.
“I’ve just been to Oaxaca,” she hears him say.
(Can ghosts lie? Can’t they bi-locate?)
“From cheaply-paved highway
A circle of hills, the circumference
Of a corrugated metal factory, Compaq,
A block long. In the evenings, at lean-to’s
The nanotechnicians squat at fires,
Their cell phone dangling from belt loops.
There were no latrines. There was Internet access.
They ate once daily. This is modernity.”
He spells this last sentence on the inside
Of the glass facing the frame around his head—
A wedding shot (not his): liquid, leopard-skin
Sun, late Saturday in June,
And melted elm leaves rimmed his moussed
Hair. It is like a child’s game: breathing
At a window, trailing the pad of an index.
But he has no breath. She stares through his message,
News of the political world from a spirit,
A paradox secret: both published and kept.
Commemorating him is punishment, she thinks.
The sill at the foot of the ovoid footed
Frame is an altar, with dried sacrifices:
No breast of wave; no shoulder of heave; cumulus
Of offerings never taken up, unless through processes
Of decomposition and flow: Rum
Evaporated from the shot glass. Flesh
Of a peach picked clean and the pit, pocked,
Tipped sideways, like a skiff hull in the dust,
Jaws of a stiff baleen, a wrinkled pale-bellied gourd.
Yesterday was Pentecost. Above the reverend
Swam oversized, origami birds hatched
From 80lb. stock. She’d designed them
On computer and distributed printed plans
To widows, those espoused to Alzheimer’s.
They twisted softly, like space shuttles.
Neither of heaven nor of Earth, she thought.
He. They. All of them. Unlocatable save
In one positioning system: remembrance. Hell is memory.
A name written in chalk: Legible. Erased.
“And suddenly there came a sound from heaven
As of a rushing, mighty wind. And there appeared
Unto them cloven tongues like as of fire.
And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost,
And began to speak with other tongues,
And every man heard them in his own language.”
The coffee grinder. The radio. The e-mail chimes.
Car alarms and cell phones sing
In her suburban morning like warning birds.
She wakes. It is Memorial Day.