March 7, 2008

She lost her sister, twice

She lost her sister, first — a blood clot
smaller than her little-fingernail
lodged in an artery. Sudden, swift,
and some said merciful,
death kindly came and stopped for her,
as the Amherst spinster said.

But these were folk from warmer latitudes —
“The Islands” or “Back Home,” and she would see to it
her sister’s body rested with her kin.

And so began the tedious task
of paperwork and plans,
till loaded on a transport,
one more crate among the others,
not the only body there to find
its place with freezers, air conditioners
and TV sets, purchased with hard-earned
US dollars, headed “Home” by air.

A sudden squall, a storm — whatever —
the black box undiscovered, told no tales;
but — long and short — the transport ditched at sea;
the crew now numbered with the packaged dead —
and all the crates — appliances and her body —
plummeting to an unintended burial at sea.

And so she lost her sister, twice. The family
would still put flowers on the empty grave,
in memory — as memory was all
that still remained.

Tobias Haller BSG

March 7, 2008


3 comments:

susan s. said...

Oh, Tobias, thank you!

Grandmère Mimi said...

Tobias, another thank you. I lost two sisters in just a little over a year. It was hard. It's still hard. One blow and then another blow before there's time to recover from the first. They were my younger sisters, too. Since I've had my three score and ten, plus three, with my two younger sisters passed on, I truly feel as though I'm living on borrowed time.

Tobias Haller said...

Thank you, Susan and Mimi. This was something that just more or less popped into my head. It isn't based on a real incident -- though a member of my parish did fly her mother's body back to the Virgin Islands yesterday for burial, and I suppose that was in my thoughts. But I've always been moved at the notion of the cenotaph or memorial-without-body, and the poignancy of burial at sea, and the emptiness of not having a "place" to relate to. And I suppose 9/11 was also in my head, and the sense of loss and the whole issue of identifying even the smallest remnants of those who died, which has had a big psychic impact on us in NY.