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.
to church. Give $500 to Bill Eakins. Give $1,000 to women.
to soloist. No calling hours. Only the church service.
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
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
the D-shaped instrument, whose top is ornamented
with the head
of a waterfowl. Against his right thigh and stone shoulder, he rests
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.