The Hearse

Allegra Wong

Rusty gold chrysanthemums; empty
Wing chair; mantel, run with length
Of bittersweet, columned with slender
Poetry volumes (titles shedding their gilt);
On the windowsill, a pair of gray gloves
With cloth-covered buttons at the wrists:

Somehow this Kertesz photograph
Of an October parlor window
Reminds me of the August midnight
In the Hixville pine woods here
Just outside my bedroom when
Some boys left a silver hearse.
It was my mother's, burned,
Sooted, and the throat where the casket presides
Was choked with scorched silk,
But some of the window chrome was still intact.
It must have been
The hour the nighthawk swoops
Whooping and shrieking...
Startled--as anyone would be
Confronting a hearse in moonlight woods
And a band of black-coated men and women
Hurrying up from Trout Brook
Through the pines toward the village,
Strangers who have trespassed these woods
For centuries.

But it is the chrome which suggests my mother,
Makes me think of the shine
Of her back brace, a shine,
Like haiku, that waits between the slant
Of desk front and Hamadan or
Is glimpsed in window light ashen mornings.

Makes me think of her '56 Ford Fairlane chrome
Glistening winters among the bare oaks
At the end of Jonquil Path, past
The vandalized moss-covered sepulchers
And tombs, near my sister's grave, ice-sheathed
Pine cones glinting in the wreath strung
To the back of her granite stone. The wreath's
Red ribbon flared, and in the winter afternoon sun,
The thawing ice wet the granite, stained
My mother's gray gloves, as she finger-traced
The epitaph I sigh for thee.

Makes me think of her last days
And her steel walker,
Burnished with fall sunset, as she stood
Beside her rust-colored wing chair
At the bow window (run with strands of
Bittersweet)...her left hand's needle-bruised fingers
Relaxing their handle-grip and disclosing
The imprint of my dead sister's palm in hers.

Her steel walker, stainless,
Outspread-hearse-like-in my attic,
Makes me think of angel wings and flight.

Cover Prior

The 2River View, 3_2 (Winter 1999)