The Poet’s Family at Her Funeral


The circle closes over the dead woman’s space.
Family and community heal, the scar tissue
between a young girl’s breasts. She had
shared conversations with my father about
the holes in their hearts. My heart, the
muscle, not the spirit, flutters when a
young girl bikes by or the heron flies.

By September flies are down, we can come
out of our canoes and risk the woods. Summer’s tissue
is torn each night. Space above gives perspective
to the life one had. Jesus speaks your name?
And is Barbara now traveling astronomy’s corridors
at the speed of light, aware of herself, to the blessed heart?
Raymond too is moving on, wary of his dispatcher.

Much of the family gathered. My grandfather, Bart,
it was remembered sold his house to none other than Duke
Ellington and Lena Horne lived up the block. Andrew
played with her daughters, sons. Until every Italian
had moved east into Long Island, thinking themselves
better than blacks. I find each and all –
Hindus, Muslims – hard-earned bone and prone to scratch.

We are most happy the dead one’s not us.
The chosen one, the unfortunate one, the
one whose name Jesus spoke, is gone
and is no longer one of us. She is the other,
as distant and separate from the family
as a black man or Hindu’s sister. Missed less
than last night’s sleep or meat and grateful

for such peace. I will be too if it won’t
come too soon or too often. My observation is
54 or 84 you always seem to want more
what was accomplished or never finished isn’t
enough. Greedy, overweight and blameworthy
is how I’ve felt about every wasted day.
Summer’s tissue torn by the first frost night.

Judging by her feet, Judith will be a big
woman, great granddaughter of Bartholomew,
who sold his redlined house to Duke. See how she
stands near her mother, Jeanette, who
resembles so fiercely my grandmother, Concetta.
The circle closes over the dead woman’s space.
Summer’s tissue is torn, the family is lace.


Copyright 2012 by Robert Ronnow.