Morning, brilliant light, the arms of the lawn chair
and the exhaustion of the eyes, the edges
of the yard pintucked into place,
the root of the orange
tree, and the earth filled with sweet alyssum
hinges on it, like a human hip bending to pick a coin up.
My father is writing my mother’s eulogy.
She isn’t dead. Last night was the last
night of language, words had
already stopped, days before, but last night,
it appeared she discovered a new
language, in blinks she asked
for coffee, then, for the first song
from the Bill Evans trio’s Waltz for Deby.
Or we asked her and she said yes,
and yes looked like
both eyes shut at once. Under the sun
umbrella, beneath the nest,
my father has just finished writing
his account of her life, eloquent but very simple,
factual and correct, it does not pander
with jokes, as its writer is already liked. Habitual,
it shies from anecdote. A perfect wife,
she contains sweetness
but not as in sugar in cube form, not formal, but sweet
as in honey dissolved in lemon
juice for a sick friend
with a sore throat. I am also in his speech.
I say something that resolves death.
The yard fills with sentences
now, the yard accepts another hour of closer
sunlight. In the speech, I say
all time is extra. I say we are lucky
under palm trees. The imagery
that dominates my father’s complex
diction is that of light. His draft
full of tiny crossings out. The mother robin
polices the nest with her absence—
she hides it, she knows gratitude
for safety can’t save her,
it would be gratitude to a predator
for not eating her, and that’s only as good as silence.
Katie Peterson has two books coming out in September 2013: Permission, from New Issues and The Accounts, from University of Chicago. Katie is a professor at Tufts University in the English department.