Thursday, February 24, 2005

How They Are Missed

His colors paint her memories bright
What can a mother hang onto
When a son dies at 23?
At this ancient pueblo
She sells his brushstrokes with life
Reopening the loss and celebrating his talent each day.
It is not that he died that makes the art precious,
But that he lived. He lived and saw the world
As a palette of glorious color, rich detail to share.

Roadside crosses are everywhere in this Land of the Rising Sun-
Proof that the sun sets too soon for so many.
Here there are five together,
A giant plywood angel trumpets their departure
Later, another decorated for Halloween, colorful and festive
Now, in this steep and treacherous place,
Only a plain white cross and the pile of stones that anchor it tightly
As if to make up for the car that didn't.

We hang on so tightly to those we have lost.

I want to tend these memories too,
Stop and fix the plastic flower garlands
That have fallen askew
Remove the wreath of now-dead roses
Tidy up the offerings and add my own “Lechaim!”
To honor their worth in someone’s life.
Supplement this proof that death does not rob us of everything
For life to matter, death can’t be an eraser
We are so much more than chalk on the blackboard.

San Cristobal, home of the grave of D.H. Lawrence
Phoenix riding astride a white monument
Housing a tomb, and a guest book full of impressions
Accolades, detractions, a story of a visit by a bear,
Indifference to anything
Other than a bright spring day on a pretty mountainside.
In perpetuity the place Frieda chose will be maintained
To refresh our memory.

Celebrating the Day of the Dead
We call out our respects like a group toast
After each name: Por la vida!
If the lost ones are not close in place
They are surely close in heart
These altars of spirit we build
Evidence of life’s endurance.

I bring home a spun sugar skull
Place it gently in front of her picture
The tiny pastel flowers of frosting
Mocking the hollow emptiness of mortality
I know Mom would smile at the marks
Where her grandchildren couldn’t resist tasting
The sweetness that coats death’s vestiges.
I will bring home a painting by Flower Basket’s son
Call out to each of the crosses I pass,
Por la vida!
Someone remembers.
Por la vida.

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