Aubade for Uncle
The year following her husband’s death, my aunt learned
how to forgive ghosts for beating us to the punchline.
The joke about the tumor is that it came on suddenly,
like feeling a step give way beneath one’s feet
or the exquisite momentary belief
that a harvest moon is close enough to touch.
In some other life I imagine the autopsy:
everything catalogued and shelved into something
no longer meaningless.
The soft vitreous humor of his eyes,
elbow bones arranged side by side like utensils,
brain quivering on its stem, all those ruined cells
steeped in their own fluid.
I wonder if when grief pulled out my aunt’s spine
it left anything behind to hold her up.
If she ever cupped his head in her palms before the end,
readying its measurements
for the coroner.
My grandparents live in a haunted house, or at least this
is what lonely people tell themselves
when even ghosts are more welcome than absence.
The doors rattle and shut, the stairs creak; sometimes
the chandelier even sways back and forth like a good waltz
when wind is nowhere to be found.
They say my grandfather’s father died of fright
when the barn burned down, the sun breaking itself open
like yolk, all the horses running wild into the streams
and past the silos.
Sometimes the graveyard next to their house looks like love
the way a good strong storm can unearth ashes
from where they’ve been scattered like birdseed.
Is it that what haunts their bedrooms
wants back the life it had before?
Or is it waiting for the time to come when it will take their hands
and carry them both into whatever comes after this
some candle in their window still waving?
Used to be you’d place coins over the eyes of the dead,
fill their pockets with orange peels to sweeten the soil
when it knitted itself soft over their heads.
All the men that once loved me have since passed on,
leaving behind cedar chests of bullets and some hatchet
still singing with the sap of the tree it once buried itself in.
Left in a room full of only their mothers
I’d serve drinks to the ones who never asked
why I fell for their no-good sons.
There was one man, some seesaw of fists and apologies,
who walked off into a cornfield and never came back.
All that golden closing over his head,
the way the drowning let the ocean take them
when the gift of air has served its purpose.
Song to Memory
Eventually, they say, the neurons just give up,
and suddenly everything is new like a birthday,
the names of the families across the street,
why to put milk in the fridge and keys in your purse
instead of vice versa.
Memory runs its course, follows the shadow
of whatever takes it away like the Pied Piper,
some slow forgetting that turns to loss.
We couldn’t convince you it was all going to dust,
that it wasn’t just loneliness
that caused you to stand beneath the streetlight
late at night, luminescent like a moth,
wondering which road
would take you home.
That when you forgot our faces
love wouldn’t grace them back.
Meggie Royer is a writer and photographer from the Midwest who is currently majoring in Psychology at Macalester College. Her poems have previously appeared in Words Dance Magazine, The Harpoon Review, Melancholy Hyperbole, and more. She has won national medals for her poetry and a writing portfolio in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, and was the Macalester Honorable Mention recipient of the 2015 Academy of American Poets Student Poetry Prize. Her most recent collection is Healing Old Wounds With New Stitches (Where Are You Press, 2013).