Again, the Bite

Jamie Stern


                         For My Mother

In the bite of this day
in the dug-out earth
under wet leaves and a polished stone
you are decomposing
behind the Dessels
who died old and lie together.

Forgive me
I let them put you in a wooden box
in the dirt
to rot
while I went home to have babies
and love them more than you.

Today Dad picks leaves
off the well-trimmed bush
now twenty-four years old
that covers you.
The space for him
the only space not green
in shade.

I want to dig you up
and take you home
for safekeeping.

Too late for that
I put a stone on your stone
and leave you here again
on your birthday
turning to dust.

You should have resisted
in those last days
the drug flood to your cancered bones
the vein-filling silencers
the silencing

Holding on to your arms
still soft
above the tubes and tape
we watched you
as if watching could stop it.

"Let me go," you said,
and turned away.
They made us take your rings.
You held your breath.
We left you to a plastic bag.

I should have grabbed you then
and refused to put you
in this grave
in the perpetual care of a gardener
in a coffin
that could keep out

would have been better
a steel box
with pillows and a cashmere wrap
reinforced steel
to keep you whole
so that later
when my rings come off
I could crawl inside
put your arm around my shoulder
and die your child
while my children clear the leaves.

Jamie Stern is a practicing lawyer and an aspiring poet. She lives in Tribeca with her husband and two sons.