Friday, December 19, 2008

Firsts for Totally Optionally Prompts

[Totally Optional Prompts encouraged us to write about "Firsts." First anything, actually. I'm late writing one this week, but decided to do it anyway.]

The Pallbearer

I missed my grandmother's funeral when I was off at school.
I spent the day after she died with my cousin,
learning about claddagh rings and candlepin bowling in Southie.

I was a summer trip chaperone when my granddad died.
They didn't tell me until I got home from constantly watching
5 stragglers in identical blue shirts to make sure they
stayed with the group when we crossed 5th Avenue or
entered the restaurant or left the museum.

But I came home for my great aunt's funeral,
even though it was one of the coldest Januarys on record.
I had never been a pallbearer before but the
funeral director was kind and clear.

There had been more people at the visitation
during the ice storm the night before.
In the morning everything sparkled
except us, bundled in the darkest,
warmest clothes we could find.

After the second time through
"The Old Rugged Cross on the Hill"
Mom said a few words.
She was now the matriarch.

We were all big, strong people:
my sister, niece, mom, one brother and an uncle.
But lifting the coffin by my hand-hold
I was surprised at how little it weighed.
Shouldn't 90 years of life feel heavier?

They reminded us to walk slowly,
even though the trip to the hearse was a short one
and under cover so there was no ice to slip on.

I later wondered how often there were more
women than men as pallbearers.
And I wondered if it would feel less awkward
the next time I was tapped for the job.


Sweet Talking Guy.. said...

Yeah, that's a moving first. And I like the remark about 'shouldn't 90 years of life feel heavier?'

Linda Jacobs said...

This is an amazing poem! The idea of being the first female pallbearer and honoring it in a poem is is fantastic. I really love this!

sister AE said...

Hi, Andy. Thanks.

And thanks, Linda.

Tumblewords: said...

Amazing first - full of interesting observations and life splicing. I agree with STG about the 90 years of life... Nice work, for sure!

sister AE said...

Hi, Sue. Thanks.