for D. H. C., Jan. 7, 1927-July 30, 1997
If only the roses could throw off
their mantle of death, the half-sheared
mid-summer cape of blooms—
long past prime and drying,
their petals flaking like dead skin to the touch—
still draped across the tower of thorns
that rises above your roof.
Always, before, you disrobed death
in a few July days of deft clipping
from a ladder.
The briars grabbed and nibbled
at your skin. But you prevailed.
No longer. Now the sun
will rise, forever, and forever,
on the unfinished work.
Still, your voice rises
in storm gusts from the north,
the vastness of your breath
taking those dead blooms again.
Your littlest grandson hears it yet,
and oblivious to irony,
runs as boats approach and shouts,
“Bompie’s coming back!”
But so you are, albeit in younger forms, already here.
The children have absorbed in their short years
your many gifts–that trademark twinkle,
reassuring blinks and waggles of the tongue,
firm grip and loving eye,
silent blessings that bid us to go on.
“Jepson Island” was first published in Kudzu in 1998.
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