Stairway to Somewhere?

Here under the tent, we say
our final goodbye. Soon your
coffin will be lowered into the ground.
The crowd folds like fall foliage,
with promises that it will get better
and death is not the end.
What will they remember of you?
Your smile? The broach you always wore?
The photo of you on the beach
in your Sunday best, with sunglasses
as stylish as Jackie O’s.
Please send me a sign,
a popcorn kernel of hope
that your spirit lives on.
That your soul is in a peaceful
place. That days and years
from now, we’ll find you again.
I question the sky. It reflects
back light then dark. No
definitive answers there.
Yet still I search eternity,
for you. This depth of feeling
keeps me pondering infinity.
This anguish spurs me on.

-Tosha Michelle

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Upon Hearing of Your Passing.

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Years from now when I read of your passing, I won’t imagine you in some abstract place. I want to picture you where you were the happiest- by the stream, where the ocean is never far, with book in hand, countless chapters, and no one to interrupt you.

Relaxing under a cerulean sky, blue-winged birds soaring.
The years, an heir to what was, golden, swinging light
as a breeze on an olive branch. The sky opening in their final valediction.

The sunlight dusting your hair, the fringe of grass.
The water from the stream flowing upward against the backdrop
of an eternal, carefree day.

The wisp of yourself pouring into the syntax in front of you. Words open again and again. Never taking back what they promise.
A thousand words to sustain you. Peace hemmed cover to endless cover.

Paused on the footnote of the page, you look up. Freedom in your gaze. Liberation in the moment. How still you are. How content. The words happening here. You look back down: your finger in the book. Your heart still, attuned to the glimmering of the stone.
The precipice attained.

-Tosha Michelle

Shadows of Death

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The shadow of my dead
grandfather cast itself
in my dreams some
nights.

I see his silhouette
walking down a deserted road.
I follow him for hours. Every
time I quicken my pace to
catch up, he quicken his
faster

There’s always a
ending but never a beginning.
Time refuses to fold back
Translucence wanders endlessly.
Papa’s the light darting through
my eyes.

I wonder if the dead remember?
Maybe in my dream I’m
looking for a clue that they
haven’t forgotten us,
that’s there truly is a spiral staircase to a better place.

Papa keeps moving
The bones stay quiet.
The ash refuses to speak
The moon gives me the dead eye.
What a thing to be so close
but hear no words

The night dissolves.
A squawk of a crow wakes me
My sadness steals the sun.
For now my question
remains unanswered.

-Tosha Michelle

Granny

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I’m snapping green beans
I bought at the store today,
thinking they would remind me
of Granny and sitting
at the kitchen table,
listening to her “well,
when I was your age” stories.

Hoping that just for a moment
I could hug her again,
feel the sureness of her being,
her sweet familiarly.

Go back before dementia
stole her mind,
and cancer her body.
The days of sweet tea,
peppermints, and house dresses.

Granny could solve any problem
with a hickory stick or a stern look.

I miss her, even now years later,
I can’t help but compose
her in a poem- warm hands,
dark hair, sadness
that never left her eyes,
a lifetime of hardships

For a moment I’m ten again,
and Granny gives me her Irish grin.
Something soft but fierce about her.
Finding joy in an orderly
home and things done right.

How solid and healthy
she looks laboring away
over green beans.
Singing her favorite hymn
“In the sweet bye and bye”
Light shimmering through the room.
Real but unreal.

“We shall meet on that
beautiful shore”
Her notes gradually
becoming fainter.
The words descending,
echos from the past.
Love in every syllable.

I listen as evening opens
around me.
Sorrow changes its pitch.
Thee last of the sunlight
streams in the windows.
Swelling, even as it
disappears, even as it waves goodbye.

-Tosha Michelle

Reading the Dead

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I love my dead relatives

like I love the broken

spine of my favorite book

I love the bent back pages

and the sad dust cover

of ruin. I’ll never discard

it. I take it out often and

bookmark it in memories.

In the chapters, I want the

words to live again. No

matter how many times

I reread the text, there is

no next scene.

I hope it plays out in

another dimension.

I’d like to think some things

are like this.

The morning light casts a

glow upon the cover,

giving it an angelic gleam.

Who could not admire the

beauty of a well loved book?

Wreckage made by years of

reading favorite passages

over again, and who could

not mourn, the sudden shock

when the pages begin

to fade?

-Tosha Michelle