The Present Tense
by Suzanne Roberts


When the lady at the funeral parlor
hands Daddy over, she says, it isn't ashes,
you know. That's what most people think.
But, really, it's bone fragment. It's so hot
that the rest disappears.
Mother says she's heard quite enough.
We load into my sister's convertible Mustang.
Our hair clamors in wind. Mother holds
the wooden box of bone on her lap, stares
into the rest of her days.

Back at home, Mother puts Daddy on the shelf
between Dante and Shirley MacLaine.
I go to my old room where Mother keeps
teddy bears, Dr. Seuss, Barbie's dream house-
for your children, she says-she still waits.
I lie on the narrow bed, stare at the sea foam ceiling.
Daddy used to say some are too heart-aware,
but if you lie on your right side with the pillow
at the edge of your ear, you won't hear it.
I try to forget the beating of my heart.


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