Marybeth Rua-Larsen

And Every Breath A Test
I drift beside the casket, ignore advice
and look: my neighbour’s daughter, her stillness,
her waxy, powdered face can’t hide her illness –
why do this? Arrange her hands, sacrifice
her spirit. She’s not a crocus in the snow
testing winter’s willingness to let go
and every breath a test.
They’ve lost their daughter. Will this endless crush
of mourners ease their pain? One more arrangement
with daisies, her favourite; they make a floral fuss
while schoolmates cringe at her disfigurement.
An easel full of pictures boasts her former face,
then topples over in a stranger’s rush for grace
and every breath a test.
Once home, I heave myself into a chair,
feel my daughter, dirty from the sandbox,
climb into my lap. She pushes, unlocks
my arms, circles like a cat, bangs her fair,
unruly head onto my chest to sleep.
The weight of her immobilizes me
with every breath a test.

Marybeth Rua-Larsen © 2009