The bottle’s label says that God has set him down again
Into the loving arms of Mother Earth,
And I guess that that would be true enough
If we had buried him.
He said he wanted to be taxidermied,
Repositioned so the grandkids could sit upon his lap
Like Ronald Macdonald.
It was funny—in a roll-your-eyes sort of way—
Until he died suddenly
Sitting in a rocking chair,
Arms positioned like a welcome,
Head dropped like he’d just nodded off.
Now he’s sitting on my desk
In a champagne bottle,
A weight of dust I couldn’t part with
Contained by dusty glass—
Part of a package deal he bought
With tickets for a hot air balloon—
Because I recognized him in the dust,
Like filled-up ash trays on the porch,
Like gritty sand from walking on the beach
Where the grit and crunch that holds you up is someone else’s life,
Someone else’s bones squeezed in between your toes.
I feel his sacrifices like the shattered shells I can’t avoid,
Making up the shoreline of my days.
I move across these years
With respect that tastes like salty tears;
My life is taking him
(In such an insufficient way)
To places he could never go,
But I go there on his life of sweat and toil.
The winds have welcomed you with softness
The bottle’s label says
(We poured his dust into the wind)
The sun has blessed you with his warm hands.
(Except his eyes are dark, and all the warmth is gone)
You have flown so high and so well,
(Suggests a fuller life than 49)
That God has joined you in your laughter.
(But no one joined him in his tears).
Was the name of the balloon
And fits the unreality
Of this fictitious space without him,
Of a flight from which I had to fall,
Of the brevity of life
And the joy of after all.