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Fragments of a Requiem, No. 13

i.m. Eleanor Ross Taylor

1. Prelude: A Memorial Service, 1997

Grief turns mascara to black ink,
        Turns girlhood friends to furies
Whose rose-lipped mouths open to sing
The Kaddish. My heart translates o murder;

Translates O Lord our God of Israel,
        Smite all false-hearted men
Who dream of divorce, or their wives killed;
Let lightning torch their flesh, their hands

Melt to black blood. Grief turns their faces
        To their children’s, unsmudged
After washcloths and soap. Translate,
    Scarred heart, o law, translate o Judge

While the police search joggers’ trails,
        The ice-etched, tree-walled ponds
In parks. And drag the river’s roil
    The way these mothers dragged wet combs

Through tangles in their children’s hair,
        Most darker than my own.
The keening turns; and now I hear
    O weep for how we never left home

But packed the generations with towels
        And sheets, the broken glass
Saved with our wedding veils. For exile
    To faces growing lined and slack,

To knowledge torn from a friend’s slaughter.
        Should outsiders turn where–
O Lost One, artist, wife, and mother–
The men’s heads bow to offer prayers

That they weren’t born to be romanced
        By late-shows, or to bleed.
O weep that lives we once imagined
    Have disappeared like her dead body–

No one knows how. Just miles away,
        The police search, once more,
Woods near the missing’s house for graves.
    Why have I come here? Where’s the door?

2. “Yellow Taxi”: Post-Mortem, 2000

Above her signature, the huge cab bulks
In front of shop windows rose-gray with dusk
And emptied of their mannequins. A lake,

Or pond, spreads humid wind among the horns
Blown by stalled tourists, the pre-showtime diners
And downtown bosses en route to happy hours . . .

Where’s the cab driver? Where’s the painting?–hung
In this swank bar. “The guilty husband hangs,”
Predicts one guy, who knew Janet when young

And winning preschool stars for what she drew.
“I like artistic types,” he winks. “Like you.”
I sip vodka, teeth rattled by the ice-cubes,

And then reject his proffered coat to shiver,
Though it’s now June. The painting–where’s the driver?–
Exudes a sweaty glow; my next rejoinder

Sounds both vaguely flirtatious and unkind.
No metaphoric stab will close my wounds.
Too long alone, I dream nightly of bones

Or read, past midnight, Akhmatova’s great lines
For women bowed, death-still as mannequins,
At windows where they asked if beloved sons …

“Buy you a drink?” This chance encounter wants
Two boys some day. And me? Two blaring sirens.
A cab, but steered by my two ringless hands.

3. Epithalamion, 2011

It’s thirteen years since my divorce; thirteen
Times two beloveds gone, and six proved keen
To join them: in my new household, we maintain

A running body count and dye our jeans

And shirts in mourning. Now, post-Easter dawn,
What occasion fits, to speak in puns,
Better to rewind a tape in crumbs

Of obsequies before a royal union,

The shots cross-hatched? So to speak, again:
Poor Akhmatova, whose only son
Disliked her once she set him free, thus and

Asunder? O how we hate–and love–imprison-

Ers, and those who loose their very hands
From our pale fragile throats? Again, again:
What is life if not repetition,

And sentences, or lines, for those sullen

With crafts and arts? So let me stop,
Reject all rhyme, near, perfect, slant,
And tell the worn-out truth: this, as pops,

On our TV, a fuzzed recording, and:

4. Love Lies Bleeding, 1997 and 2011

Wrought iron and gold, the palace gates swing wide
As the cortège begins its procession
Through sun-hushed London streets, a hush broken
Too quickly by a woman’s high-pitched cry,

A single lung-torn note repeated till
It translates as mine. Black horse-hooves clop.
TV reporters, for a moment, drop
Their glossy anecdotes about the ball

Or photo-op where the Princess spoke
To them, alone. A moment when the soul
Weeps for all lost addresses. Like the cul-
De-sac where Buckingham bulks gray; or like

The lane where Janet’s dream-house, a stone dacha,
Stood empty when the detectives and lawyers
Removed her paintings, though not the porch’s flowers
Once left in tribute; or Akhmatova’s

St. Petersburg apartment where she wrote
To translate her keening into a nation’s.
“Di read cheap romances, a real bird brain,”
My ex-belovèd offered on the phone;

“The two of you had nothing more in common
Than a nickname,” which failed to stop my tears.
I’d made him late, and for the same firm dinner
Where we’d once sat by Janet–“spoiled past rotten,”

My unkind verdict–and his colleague, wedged
Between, “a jerk.” Now jailed. Free to weep for
Something beyond my heart’s four puny chambers,
I lipstick words on my own mirror’s edge

And glimpse no lasting scars. I’m free to sing,
To mourn and yet take joy, to bow in church
And ask that words, transformed by prayer, can stanch
A child’s tears, or a people’s. To bleed and sing,

For we’re all silent at that last address,
The grave’s temple, though some are offered tributes
Of farewell notes and bouquets. Offered pop tunes:
“Goodbye English Rose.” Goodbye to Janets, Annas,

To all the banished princesses of lives
Reprised like Heaven’s favorite song. Lives spent
Between the castle and the prison gate,
God’s terrified exiles. Or law’s. Or love’s.