Peter Cooley

A Few Years After a Death
September 5, 2015 Cooley Peter

A Few Years After a Death


Toward sunfall, when I begin to count
the light’s last leave-takings on the grass, startled
at how quickly night descends, distinguishing
the caterpillar from the live oak it devours
instant after instant: I hear you, through the mockingbird,
her shrill cry unending until dark.
Or sometimes at dawn, stumbling to stand up,
wiping the darkness from my face with balled fists,
a gesture you told me as a child you loved
and I tried to quit at twelve and finally expunged
until the night you died when I took it up again,
grinding back the tears that never came, hard into their locks.
The mourning dove draws all this out, all morning long.

Otherwise, Mother, you are dead like anyone.
A minute notice in the paper, a box of ashes, gilt gift-wrapped,
a few gravesite mumbled words, seven quaint  handwritten notes.
Oh, there is noon, too, daily for a reckoning:
the same crow  alighting on my study window ledge
to caw the call of maladroit, black ravening
I can never fill, with whatever crust I grace him.
Otherwise, my hours play themselves out, my days
mute, numb, indistinguishable, numberless.

Peter Cooley is Professor Emeritus at Tulane University and was Louisiana Poet Laureate 2015-2017. His 11th book was THE ONE CERTAIN THING, elegies for his wife, who died in 2018.