We’re stopped in Subiaco
to lay stones on stone
at a fellow penner’s grave
where we jaw, punch-drunk
and carsick, about being buried
or burned up. “I don’t want
to take up any more space,”
I tell the boys, both fathers now,
who, shaped like trees, lean
toward the earth. I imagine
their old daughters leaving a slice
of gas station moon pie,
rye, a nickel plated acorn, ladies
picnicking in the shade of a pine
as immobile as the body’s husk.
Chemicals and maggots, sure,
but also a place to grieve, a creek,
a constellation of death to count on.
These men know something
I don’t. That someone will grieve
past their bones, count on them
to be there among the shaded trunks
of pines like the stark bars
of a generous cage.
(What if no one comes to the cliffside
where my skin’s ashes set sail?
No mourning kin, no lost hitchhiker.)
But friends, it’s lunchtime,
and doesn’t my mouth still work;
my appetite, my forked tongue?
Ada Limón is the author of four books of poetry, including Bright Dead Things, which was named a finalist for the National Book Award in Poetry, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, a finalist for the 2017 Kingsley Tufts Award, and one of the Top Ten Poetry Books of the Year by The New York Times. Her other books include Lucky Wreck, This Big Fake World, and Sharks in the Rivers. Here work has appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The New York Observer, Harvard Review, poets.org, and elsewhere.