Monday, April 18, 2011

What To Tell Her

She came to me
diffident but insistent,
as the dead do,
filled with the urgency to speak.

Would you please
she said, but then worked silently,
internally, like a modern dishwasher
on some fancy setting
for a while.

The last time I saw you,
I said, lest things grow awkward,
was bad times. Goblins
sorting organs in the basement.
I'm glad we're done with that.

Would you tell her,

she finally said. It's always words.
It's funny, the dead
don't care about things anymore.
It's only the words, the words
they're desperate to get right.

Would you tell her I'm sorry, I'm sorry
that I loved her so much.
It was the only thing I could do.

I could tell her that,

I said. But it's only
what any of us would tell our kids,
if we could,
if they could hear it.
I don't think you came
all this way to say just that.


She laughed, suddenly,
so that the curtain stirred.
Ah, you're like her father:
she said, not nearly
so soft and drifty as you seem.


I know what I think
you should tell her,
I said.
Tell her you could only protect her
from the things
you could protect yourself from.

She was silent a while.
You don't quite understand yet,
she said, and neither does she.
But say that for now, say that for now.
It's difficult working from this side,
you know: everything's backwards.
It's like trying to back up a U-Haul trailer.

But tell her
-- and suddenly
she was fierce -- tell her I love her.
She backed away, as they do, without moving.
Not the messenger you would have chosen,
I know
, I said, and we both laughed.
You take what you can get, she said,
and vanished.

10 comments:

alembic said...

(o)

YourFireAnt said...

Just what I needed. Thanks.

Anne said...

Wonderful. True.

K said...

(o) seconded.

JMartin said...

Hilary Mantel (Beyond Black) would especially love that second stanza.

Deb said...

Oh. Goodness. Potent medicine this, posing as poetry.

I have a friend who I hope reads it. And I shall be back for it soon enough.

xoxoxo

Uma said...

I like this: "but then worked silently,
internally, like a modern dishwasher
on some fancy setting
for a while."

Gabi said...

"She backed away, as they do, without moving."
(!!!!!!!!!)

Luisa A. Igloria said...

Love this poem, Dale.

Alexandra said...

"Goblins sorting organs in the basement. I'm glad we're done with that." Such a vivid, visceral, gory image that so perfectly describes a situation we don't need to know the details of and then such understatement...it's so perfect!