Grief Calls Us to the Things of This World
by Sherman Alexie
The morning air is all awash with angels . . .
- Richard Wilbur
The eyes open to a blue telephone
In the bathroom of this five-star hotel.
I wonder whom I should call? A plumber,
Proctologist, urologist, or priest?
Who is most among us and most deserves
The first call? I choose my father because
He's astounded by bathroom telephones.
I dial home. My mother answers. "Hey, Ma,
I say, "Can I talk to Poppa?" She gasps,
And then I remember that my father
Has been dead for nearly a year. "Shit, Mom,"
I say. "I forgot he’s dead. I’m sorry—
How did I forget?" "It’s okay," she says.
"I made him a cup of instant coffee
This morning and left it on the table—
Like I have for, what, twenty-seven years—
And I didn't realize my mistake
Until this afternoon." My mother laughs
At the angels who wait for us to pause
During the most ordinary of days
And sing our praise to forgetfulness
Before they slap our souls with their cold wings.
Those angels burden and unbalance us.
Those fucking angels ride us piggyback.
Those angels, forever falling, snare us
And haul us, prey and praying, into dust.
Reprinted from Thrash, © 2007 by Sherman Alexie