At the door, each guest weighs in with a sorrow.
A woman in a bright shawl brings
a family of dead. She'd been in the kitchen
when the earthquake hit, had heard the cries
of her kids in the collapsed room, watched
as the bodies were brought out, covered
with dirt. One by one she places
their names on the scale, folds
them up like laundry and goes in.
A man in fatigues hesitates, embarrassed, then
palms his severed genitals onto the tray.
After a moment he quickly slips them back
into his pocket. The two lovers behind him link arms
and enter as one, having measured out
a handful of T-cells, a fine dust that swirls
in after them. You're next
with your freshly broken heart. But you hang back.
You can see how pathetic you are, how your heart
will lie there prostrate, a slab of meat on the block,
the needle above it fluttering at zero. Suddenly
you feel ashamed to be human. You stand there
gazing stupidly into the room: weeping and stories,
a few embraces, even snatches of song. You can't
imagine happiness in such circumstances,
or why you're here with your grief
over nothing--a face, a body you're already managing
to forget for hours at a time, that eventually,
you know, will be a dim regret--
you are sure you don't belong here, and you turn away,
to go home and be alone with the TV and maybe
a stiff drink to keep your heart from whining.
But the hallway is packed with other people, shoving
you forward to the threshold, each one impatient
to get in, so you do the only thing you can:
set down your burden for the angel
to record, and give back,
and you enter the room of the living.
Copyright ©1996 Kim Addonizio. Pennywhistle Press has
published this poem as part of a chapbook, Dark Veil, included in Sextet One:
an Anthology of Six Writers. All rights reserved.