Funeral in Paris
The aunts here clink Malbec glasses
and parade their grief with musky,
expensive scents that whisper
in elevators and hallways.
Each natural passing articulates
the unnatural: every aunt has a son
who fell, or a daughter who hid in rubble
for two years, until that knock of officers
holding a bin bag filled with a dress
and bones. But what do I know?
I get pedicures and eat croissants
while reading Swann’s Way. When I tell
one aunt I’d like to go back,
she screams It is not yours to want.
Have some cream cheese with that, says another.
Oh, what wonder to be alive and see
my father’s footprints in his sister’s garden.
He’s furiously scissoring the hyacinths,
saying All the time when the tele-researcher asks him
How often do you think your life
is a mistake? During the procession, the aunts’ wails
vibrate: wires full of crows in heavy wind.
I hate every plumed minute of it. God invented
everything out of nothing, but the nothing
shines through, said Paul Valéry. Paris never charmed me,
but when some stranger asks
if it stinks in Afghanistan, I am so shocked
that I hug him. And he lets me,
his ankles briefly brushing against mine.