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