The Untethering

Is it the toasted sugar kisses? / Or when we waltzed in the kitchen / To spring’s symphony?

A watercolour painting of an old woman deep in thought, holding a teacup with a rose on it.

The teacup quivers in her old hand
Of sunken skin between engorged
Vein tracks. Fine china
Weathering the storm of her
Grief. The cup rattles against its saucer,
Like tectonic plates fumbling
To relearn each other’s edges.
A tsunami of tea surges up
The circumferential china coast.
Before more than a drop of lukewarm liquid
Peaks and crests
Over the lacquered cliff,
The old woman speaks.

There’s too much to say! What utterance
Is worthy?
Is it the toasted sugar kisses?
Or when we waltzed in the kitchen
To spring’s symphony?
Should I speak of the mothballs
We didn’t need, that I hid
In your dresser to await the pleased
Crinkle around your eyes?
Or how your touch tilled the plains
Of my palm? These hands
Will never be the same
After years clasped in yours.

The maiden of afterlife answers.
Tell him what he needs to hear.

Turning her aching gaze to the side, out
Into the hallway, she beholds him.
The front door’s brass handle
Glares through his hipbone.
A too-big suit and briefcase in hand,
He waits for her customary farewell.
A peck and be safe at work.
Not the fare for today, though.

The tips of the old woman’s lips
Tremble in rising.
I take it back. I can go on
Without you.
And as sherbet fizzles
On the tongue, the spectre shimmers
And shatters.

His corpse lies
On the coffee table. Its concave
Chest expands, inflated
By the soul’s return. Encased
In mortal flesh, he is ready
To fade.
To cross.

Coating the corpse, the maiden
Of afterlife pours melted
Red wax. She beckons
The old woman to give up
Her strangled china.

Teacup set aside,
The widow’s steady hands
Receive the final offerings.
The old woman presses white
Heather blossoms into the setting liquid,
Glazing his cheeks and collarbones
For peaceful passage.
Her last funeral rite is of her own
Determination. She sprinkles
Toasted sugar on his lips.
For love’s sake.

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