Tracey S Rosenberg: Last Will & Testament

Co-worker

.

We never had a proper conversation – always snatched

when you were en route to the break room, taking the lift

one flight.  After I moved on, I still popped in on some excuse of an errand

that gave me the right to pause by your counter to ask,

how are things?  I could never truly ask.  Co-workers

(especially former ones) aren’t meant to share such things

and anyway, why would you have wanted to tell me anything?

I couldn’t ask if you understood

why I kept wanting to see you behind the counter,

why I’d scan through the front plate-glass even when

I couldn’t find any further excuse to come in

or make it clear why I needed you to live, for more than

your own sake, for his too, that morning he calmly mentioned

you might have another two years, but it would kill you by then.

How stupid was that, wanting you to stay alive for him.

.

.

Last Will and Testament

.

These ziggurats of neatly taped-up boxes – burn them.

A lifetime’s worth of museum brochures, kooky writing paper,

dried-up glue for unfilled scrapbooks of ticket stubs

and birthday cards.  My grandmother’s white cardigan,

its seams ripped along both shoulders.

.

Make this bonfire with driftwood, on a westward-facing beach

glittering with sea glass.  Cook hot dogs and gooey s’mores.

Invite some teenagers – you’ll know them by sight –

drunk on Shakespeare and Yeats.

Hand out one-way tickets to Europe and remind them

it will all make sense someday.

.

(They will know you’re wrong.)

.

To my biographer, God help her, leave these heaps

of diaries, receipts, mix tapes, undated scribbles

and valentines with illegible signatures.

I’ve left plenty of threads,

but if she finds the story too facile,

let her know that I’ve shredded (at random)

a sixth of my journals and drafts.

.

Finally, to my blue-eyed muse, without whom,

please deliver (in a plain brown box)

on the bleakest Friday morning of October

a small, sweet morsel wrapped in tender raw silk.

Beside it, tuck a sealed note

he can open if he chooses, or burn if he suspects:

for that summer, for letting me stay near,

for all of these gardens,

thank you.

.

. 

Name

.

The phone scammer from India begs for her.

A virus is devouring the innards

of her computer; he will cure everything.

.

Her friends ask daily, are you eating?

They speak of her with a tentative gravity

as if she has been sitting in the meadow

until she heard her name, and walked silently away

though she wasn’t sure who called.

.

He drops her books from their shelves, rips every flyleaf,

chews the corners to a paper mash that jams his teeth –

the girlish joined-up signatures, the quirky scrawls.

.

Endearments huddle at the bottoms of dry vases; nicknames plunge

like the summons of a distant flute, jerking him

to the edge of the bed as he scrabbles for the tune.

.

For years he stepped towards the abyss,

Orpheus holding his breath.

He never wanted to land.

He assumed his heart would surge

in its drop

as he howled her name.

.

.

Watchman

.

Spiked awake

I choked into my cuddly tiger

spewing the shards

rocketing up my chest.

.

Just when the smooth painted-white bedposts

plunged – as my own bed leaned me towards

the chute of prickling flame –

Dad stumbled across the hall.

Bathroom light soothed the hardwood floor.

The bottle tapped the spoon.

.

Syrupy grapes drowned the peaks, flooded me

to safety.  Dad never tilted the spoon too far.

The man I love stands slightly behind me.

He glances along the wooden counter.  Lightly,

I cough.  He doesn’t seem to hear.

.

.

.

.

.

image © Chris Scott

image © Chris Scott

Tracey S. Rosenberg’s debut poetry collection, Lipstick is Always a Plus, was published by Stewed Rhubarb Press in 2012.  She won a New Writers Award from the Scottish Book Trust and has published poems in a variety of journals, including Gutter, New Writing Scotland, The Frogmore Papers, and the Journal of the American Medical Association. She lives in Edinburgh.

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