A death in the building

When the elevator stops on seven

I know it is her body in the long bag

on a gurney--the bag with a zipper

that runs from head to toe.

The undertakers nod and the doors

slide close--I am left alone to ride

the air down to the lobby.

It's ordinary, but then it's not--

leaving with a snap that darks or brights--

then, no more labor, no more cool halls,

and no more the rush of the L when her

windows are open to summer.

I would like you to listen to our worry:

the reoccurring dream of being late

for the train, unable to take those bags

left at the hotel, the train bound to a city

we cannot name but must visit to go home.

The rigid static of her one sided language

tries to talk about the sudden cold.

Hurry. He waves. You come too.

Water mumbles over a short dam,

the rasp of a saxophone brushes out

a melody of cocktails and smoke--

all I have to say about her passing

is what we say of anyone--childhood

by a river, a pleated cheerleader's skirt,

the rough hands of a boy and man on her,

a breeze that lifts the picnic tablecloth,

the jazz of rain and too many nights

alone with the longhand of prayer.

Sometimes, when it rains, it rains hard.

We've been waterlogged to our bones.

That was life on the bayou among cypress tree.

Oh, honey, we all go away sometime.

Don't ya know? Do ya like my green gloves

and straw hat? Watch those peppers--they's hot!

This is what remains:

relatives fly in from L. A.,

jerked by an inconvenience in their lives,

someone will get her apartment,

the dusty books will be thrown away,

scraps and scarfs are given to the resale

store and her Terrier is put down.

This is what remains:

elevator circuits click and carry

mourners to the perfume of closed rooms.

The janitor worries if he will keep his job.

The lobby doors open and close

to catch a reflection from the street

like a mirror without quick silver.

A coal train screeches east through Aurora

early Sunday morning--past the Paramount

Theater, past the Fox River, past Hercule's

Gallery of Hair. Father in heaven, take

to your bosom your daughter, take this

daughter of Israel to a land of milk and honey.

We lie in bed, with a plexiglas

of darkness between our selves.

The perfume of a humid dawn

issues through the open window.

There is laughter outside as the night

shift leaves--car doors slam,

engines turn over, and with the push

of wheels, they drive away.

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