North

by Matthew Wimberley

A stranger gave me the rest of him
the way a clerk at a grocery store
hands over the potatoes, eggs,
discount steak and pimento cheese
in a plastic bag. I wasn’t ready
for how light the body can be.
Hours before, I saw my father
hushed in his casket, smelling
of Irish Spring and cologne
chosen for him. Like any child
I wanted to un-tuck his arm
from his side and crawl
into the made space. Twenty hours
after his body used up
its unknown store of life
they called me to sign the death-papers.
They interred half of his ashes,
which were now my ashes,
in a garden-plot in Richmond, Virginia.
When the ceremony was done
an iron fence hinged
music over I’m sorry for your loss
and He was a kind man.
How many times have I meant
to give the rest of him
back to the earth?
What kept my hands
from the draw-string?
Outside of Roswell
where the city-light horizon glowed
like bones on an x-ray, I wanted
to spread him into rabbit-brush.
Again in Whitefish—
where I’d stopped at a liquor store,
thought about leaving the bag
next to the neon “Open” sign.
I got in my car and left—the road
unwinding, outrunning nothing, my father
a secret I couldn’t tell.



Read Matthew Wimberley’s “Cygnets As Two Ghosts”

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