Aunt Helene was not our aunt,
Uncle Mel not our uncle,
but Aunt Helene did stump-swing
through the house, did shuck
the crutches from her forearms
when she’d reached sink or chair,
chattering all the time. Why do I
tell this? I keep saying
This is not a rhetorical question.
I can’t find them. Instead of howling
with new grief I’ll not tell,
I contemplate polio & how
one loved Roosevelt, both radio.
Mel married Helene while she lay
in the iron lung, then left
for the war. Death isn’t new
to me, but I can’t bear
its noise. Mel, kind Mel,
came back safe. Where is he?
How can Marjorie Reilly’s
sheet cake not sit on the sideboard?
How can Mel’s camera shop
not anchor that block in Antigo?
How can snow howl down Main
without me? No more coal
in the cellar, no more pipe
or suspenders, no more doilies
tatted by ghosts with their hair
coiled atop their heads. Absurd
that things go on. All the voices
I’ll not hear again, yet I hear
them at will, no solace.
Silence, please, but not
yet theirs, not yet, please