NOR 19 #52: Fantaisie

By Donald Platt

Featured Art: Garden Flowers by Edna Boies Hopkins

                               Each person is
a solar system, the bits of birth’s Big Bang orbiting
                               some sun that both attracts

and repels. Elliptically, my mother orbits her own death,
                               that great shining
ball of fire I cannot look directly at. She draws closer to it,

                              then pulls away. She rotates
as she revolves. Together we write her obituary. Born.
                              Schooled. Worked as.

Married to. Gave birth. Resided. Retired. Is survived by.
                               The old story
we all get to write if we’re lucky, or one that will willy-nilly

                              get written for us.
I leave the day she’ll die blank. She gives me the notes
                              she wrote last night:

“Funeral in Christ Church and Bill Eakins to preach.
                              Ask Women’s Guild
to serve a simple refreshment. Give $100 to organist.

                              Give $5,000
to church. Give $500 to Bill Eakins. Give $1,000 to women.
                              Give $250

to soloist. No calling hours. Only the church service.
                              Nobody
getting up and saying nice things about me. Everyone

                              has their own
memories—good, bad, and indifferent. Chief purpose
                              of a funeral

is to pray for the departed. Also to give comfort
                              to those who grieve.
Call Hickey Funeral Home.” As an afterthought, she added

                              “Ask Charlene
to play Saint-Saëns’ Fantaisie for violin and harp.
                              You’ll need to find

a harpist.” Everyone needs a harpist to accompany her living
                              and her dying.
No one to turn to but the seated, marble harp player

                              at the Metropolitan Museum
of Art, early Cycladic, eleven and a half inches high
                              He embraces

the D-shaped instrument, whose top is ornamented
                              with the head
of a waterfowl. Against his right thigh and stone shoulder, he rests

                              the weight
of the instrument. It has no strings. His raised right thumb plucks
                              five thousand years of silence.


Donald Platt’s seventh book of poetry, One Illuminated Letter of Being, was published by Red Mountain Press in 2020. His poems have appeared in The New Republic, Nation, Poetry, Yale Review, American Poetry Review, Kenyon Review, Georgia Review, Ploughshares, Southwest Review, Tin House, Southern Review, and Paris Review as well as in The Best American Poetry 2000, 2006, and 2015. He is a recipient of two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (1996 and 2011) and three Pushcart Prizes. He teaches in Purdue University’s MFA Program.

Originally published in Issue 19.

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