Those who have died—
their roots still spread,
their fires still spread, smoking underground.
They emerge as tree roots will, bursting out of earth
far from the hollow where we once dropped in a memory
so long ago it’s only a flash, something
that once happened to a paper doll.
What comes back full-color are faces,
pieces of faces: Grandma’s powdered cheek,
red fuzz at Kris’s temple, Patty’s eye the bare-blue
of skies after rain. And there never-replacable voices,
their vocabulary: Sit with me once’t.
How you doing there, Papa-San? I wouldn’t
have that, Rosie, I just wouldn’t have that!
Sparks of their movements blaze—how
they danced, say: Karen’s arms twirling overhead,
Chris’s plant-and-stomp in Birkenstocks
Their pet ideas, coined metaphors float
in the margins as we read—as Jacklyn’s motto
was suddenly there on a brick in Chincoteague:
Toujours le mot, stamped with her signature.
Like creeper vines shooting
beneath smooth lawns, bursting out to
wind around trees minding their own business
the dead still come to decorate
strange places with their unmistakable shapes,
their sudden air bracing, their unseen
heat beneath keeping us warm.