Tracey S Rosenberg: Last Will & Testament
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,
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.
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.
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.