Mama took up her widow’s black
like an officer called to war.
A grim face, a somber nod,
as if Papa wasn’t just lying there
in make-up and his favorite toupee.
Now it’s my turn,
and I try to think of Mama, I do,
but I have nothing to give to those snaked
around the room, coiling in my direction.
As they come closer my eyes dart right-left-right,
desperate for Frank and those two fingers
rubbing reassuring circles on my neck,
but instead my eldest takes my elbow
and whispers relax, relax–
Don’t tell me to relax, Michael,
Don’t I have the right to be upset?
Don’t–who even are these people anyway?
The snake takes a step back,
but something’s still spinning, always spinning,
and Michael grips tighter.
Where were they last week
or the last seven years?
I’m sure Frank’s so touched they finally showed up,
now that he’s dead.
Don’t flinch, Michael, it’s the truth–dead.
I hear a gasp, a loud one, but
the snake takes a step together
and my eyes dart quicker, quicker
still, the snake presses in and
Oh, what will Mama say, what will Frank say?
What does it want, can’t it see
I’m suffocating enough?
It inches closer, closer, closer, until