You’re dead, gone, a trail of loose dust in the wild Sandusky current
buried in a granite coffin two feet above ground
engraved, sharp and precise the dates of your coming and going from this world.
Your ashes are bottled in a metal jar, shut tight and sealed with a kiss –
one from God: the man you gave all your faith to.
I found out a day before the funeral that you were cremated,
buried in fire and allowed to burn until coal black ashes lay in a pile
on a cold metal slab, icy to the touch.
The last time I visited your grave, a visit taken alone
my eyes bled tears so full of salt
they burned my dry skin and chapped lips on their way toward my chin.
I cried for your ghost to haunt my dreams and to touch my shoulder –
a cold breath, fingernails dug into flesh.
While I stared down at your grave I could only hope that when I opened my eyes
last year would be gone and you’d stand next to me,
a solid mass warmed by the blood in your veins.
But then I opened my eyes and you weren’t there. Instead
I buckled at the knees and wept to the clouds
hoping that maybe they’d let you plummet back to Earth.
I didn’t learn about your death until minutes after;
149 miles away I stood on the sidewalk with a palm over my mouth while my mother whispered in my ear: he’s gone.
Her velveteen voice slid through the phone speaker and tickled my eardrum.
But I didn’t cry then –
I held my breath, bearing to wait until I slid down the brown wooden door of my room to let my emotions overcrowd every nook and cranny –
smoky and hot.
It was as if I knew you were dead the moment it happened:
I ran from my class and froze on the sidewalk while my phone buzzed in my hand.
Earlier that day my mother said to me, “he’s not going to make it through the day.”
The day before, “he’s not going to make it through the week.”
The day before, “he’s doing much better today.”
Do you see how you fooled me? How you grabbed my faith and ripped it in two?
I can’t imagine your final moments considering you were in a room painted white,
annoying beeps and the silent cries of family members who stood by your side.
If I were to give you anything in those final moments
it’d be wallpaper to cover up the white walls stained with illness and death.
Your love of wallpaper no matter how ugly or outdated survived all urges toward trains
and over-priced watches branded with crowns.
Before you got sick you tore off the wallpaper in your bedroom
And vowed to replace it despite the protests of family.
Paint is easier, better and faster.
But you swore to your grave you’d never paint a wall in your own house,
so I guess you followed through.
Amid those tears at the site of your grave I came across a wisp of wind through my hair and I knew it was you with your nine-and-a-half fingers.
Your hugs lasted longer than three seconds but no more than seven.
They were tight and warm and full of a love I could never quite comprehend.
Your fingers would wrap just around my hair not so much to pull but to grip and hold as if I would let go.
You held on and whispered down into my ears: I missed you bee.
And I vowed I never would let go – that is until I had too.
It’s been a year since your death
and I have yet to let go.
I grip at your presence and hope the cold
will heat even though I know –
I know the flesh on my hands will never be warm again.