After the Wake


–for Jo


Now that you have crossed that river

now that we have sung you

to the other side

have taken leave

of your service and feast

your ashes

your house


Now that it is all behind us

and you far beyond us

what do we have

but your words

planted in the bygone dirt of your days

words which are still, by Dog,

climbing the trellis

of this unparalleled

(yes, I know) moment

and blooming like the Dickens

and the Welty bloom

against the always-turning pages

of their skies


Oh, Jo, I am trying to say

the unsayable again

because, after all, it’s my

rich and unpaying job—

same one you showed up for

at the door of every blessed day

Lift the lid on the brain-pot

stir up the heart-fire

and see what’s cooking


I realize I’ve traipsed in

from garden to kitchen

wordwise, but so did you,

Bear following close


Unceasingly at your wake

that old black dog

searched for you

among mourners eating

cheese dip in your kitchen-

dining-living-dying room,

playing ukeleles and stand-up bass

by the firepit in your yard,

talking and singing

their hearts out.  Bear

beseeched each guest

to be you or, failing that,

to bring you or, failing

that, to take her somehow

to you.  She could not rest.


We had each other—

distraction, consolation,

Spirit-drinking and conjuring.

No one wanted to leave

and take your absence

with them.  But we did, Jo,

saying goodbye to your dying

in that red-spread bed, in that

cinder-block nest with your

Day-of-the-Dead walker

foursquare in the corner,

with your walking stick/

mage’s staff collection hung

like the rungs of a ladder

on the wall


Now I want to make

a poetic finish

saying how at last

your ever-reaching spirit

has climbed another ladder


to the next world


but you say, “That’s bullshit,

George.  It’s pretty, and pretty

ain’t what it took to get me

out of my body, out of

that house, to let go

all that held me.  Say

what I said:  we are

by design supposed

to let go the hard stuff

and live in love.”

–George Ella Lyon


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