By Lance Larsen
Featured Image: Approaching Storm by Edward Mitchell Bannister 1886
We have buried our aunt with words and hymns.
Now to finish the job with dirt.
In the front of the church, a hearse
waits to lead the cortège of headlights
to the cemetery two miles away.
But here, in the back parking lot,
a grandniece, perhaps six, has squirmed
out of her itchy skirt and grabbed
a pink hula hoop from the family van.
We put the morning on pause,
three or four of us, car doors flung open.
Plenty of time to take in this emptying quiet,
her skirt puddled now on asphalt
like a secret entrance to the underworld.
And plenty of room for her little girl hips.
She jounces and gyrates, as if trying
to coax rain out of the wispy clouds
floating above our fair city.
Twelve, thirteen, fourteen . . . She counts
with a wheezy underwater voice,
the kind one uses to address homemade dolls—
limp dolls, badly stitched, x’s for eyes,
velcro on the hands to hold
an embrace after the arms grow tired.
Little grandniece swings her hips.
Green undies, dishrag sky, a waiting
that fills the parking lot even as it clears.
Any worries about the next life set
spinning for now in reassuring orbits, rattly pink.
Lance Larsen has published five poetry collections, most recently What the Body Knows (Tampa 2018). He has received a Pushcart Prize and fellowships from Ragdale, Sewanee, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Six of his nonfiction pieces have been listed as notables in Best American Essays. He teaches at BYU, fools around with aphorisms (“When climbing a new mountain, wear old shoes.”), and recently completed a five-year appointment as Utah’s poet laureate.
Originally published in NOR Spring 2010.