Another Morning on Earth
by Meryl Natchez
On the altar in the living room, pictures of my parents,
my brother at 40—one of the last photos—Larry’s parents,
my mother and her sisters on Atlantic City Boardwalk in the 30’s,
and Erwin, my mother’s last love, for the besotted, lively gaze
she turns on him, though I try to keep him
behind the flowers. Perhaps they watch me,
even watch over me. When I fell
and it was just bad enough
to put up railings and walk more slowly,
I felt they had given me a warning.
Or when the baby is here, or when we gather,
turkey or brisket or pot de crème, or an ordinary morning,
open newspaper or book or laptop, the ramekin of salt
on the table—there they are,
I change the flowers as they wilt,
alstroemerias, anemones, the last sweet peas,
because I want my dead to keep watching out for us,
for the children and grandchildren and beloved friends
in this chancy world where death lurks on the landing
or in the car, or microbes
or snipers or breast
or bone or stomach.
What do they think about the time I waste?
Such an abundance that I throw whole hours
into online Scrabble or Threes with the excuse that they
are a form of meditation,
because it’s hard to be here now,
now being a confused elixir
of sun and fog and email and bird shadow and superstition
and chicken feet and toast and news
and insatiable longing and I have to pee, a fusillade
of random moments that can converge
into a ravishing pattern,
which I have, from time to time and briefly, glimpsed.
But mostly I wander the planet with blinders on,
going somewhere fast.
I like to keep moving.
I like my time full.
And I like to believe that because
their photos look out from their niche
in the living room, they are present, and if
I keep a fresh parade of flowers on the altar
they will keep on keeping me