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Marj Hahne, finalist in the first MMM Poetry Online & in print Contest

 

Death in Seven Movements


after Lisa M. Zilker’s “Tombstones” series


1

    Moon, none—some say new—face down

On the ground, a body is

    shadowless;

Or crescent: a finger curled, rigor mortis set

    in its sad or furious beckoning;

Or full: a mouth howling the sun’s

    most distant fire, envy,

Oblivion.


2

    In the middle—some say dead—

Of night I have

    bolted

Out of my bed, my bed no longer a boat, the night

    no longer a lulling

Ocean, and run blind

    down a tunnel—the tunnel the 2nd-floor hallway

Of the house I grew up in, my college dorm’s hallway, the hallway of a chain hotel—

    run blind down the hallway away from what chases—some say

Obsesses—me. No, it wasn’t a dream but it had dark

    phantom hands, heavy and long like twin

Obelisks.

  

3

    A woman making paintings of tombstones wants

Only a door—she says portal—

    so I assume

Open, an entrance

    as an

Open eye, heart, hand. No wonder

    her luminous

Objects—she’d say subjects—touch the sky: the moon

    is a door, this world an

Oubliette.


4

    A coffin is a kind of

Obento—some say bento—

    box: black lacquered, a carefully placed lid,

One partition for the body, another

    for the buriable past. My mother’s mother rests

On top of three Luciano women, four

    long, black-laced lives finally settled in

October 1997. They’ve stopped whispering,

    they speak to each

Other and listen. My mother’s life

    insurance policy may not be enough money for an

Old-fashioned burial, so I say, “How about a ritual, Mom?” She says,

    “What do I care? I won’t know.” I don’t

Offer her this: A furnace is a kind of door.


5

    Maybe the moon is an

Ocarina—some say flute—played by a many-winged

    bird, a crow or a raven that’s lost its sharp

Obsidian beak.

    What else

Obsolesces when not tended to:

    memory, the blue whale, the

Ozone, a marriage. Ten minutes

    after my mother finally found, in an

Old Our Family Tree book, documents of my grandfather’s death and Catholic baptism,

    the nursing home called to say that my grandmother had just died—some say passed. For

Over a decade, my grandfather’s ashes waited

    to be buried with his widow, waited

On a shelf at Perkins Funeral Home, the director of which had waited

    for those papers to authorize my grandmother’s

Only postmortem request, while she adjusted

    her new hearing aid. Down by her cold feet, he’s still the

Odd

    man

Out, but at least she’ll try to hear him.


6

    Jean Robert—Haitians say zhän rōbâr—visits my friend Margie via water: rain

On a roof, a dripping faucet or shower head. A drummer when he was

    alive, he heard her body and his segon—some say conga—speak to each

Other. He

    beats

Out the

    Ibo rhythm

On

    the porcelain tub,

Over

    and

Over

    and

O-

    ver, the pulsing phrases

Of the warrior spirit—her body its vessel, free. He gave her the Ibo

    dance because he could not hold her, could not possess—some say

Own—her. Margie knows his hands

    are drops

Of water

    because the 24 beats, as his

Own heart, stops

    all at

Once.

 

7

    Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds

Of

    miles

Out

    in

Outer

    space, did the seven-member crew

Of the Space Shuttle Columbia

    understand their place in the

Order of things

    before

Or

    after the earth became a shrinking

Ornament

    weightless in the

Onyx of an undying sky?

    As they passed through the door

Of the exosphere, passed

    through the door

Of the thermosphere, passed

    through the door

Of the mesosphere, passed

    through the door

Of the stratosphere—

    did the world stop

Occurring as a swirly blue-green

    marble in God’s hands, the moon an

Opal or a pearl loosed from its strung

    duty—some would say

Office? And when their vessel

    passed through the door

Of boom and flame, was their last

    breath—in its shadowless free fall—also a sphere, the

Original air, a

    knowable kind

Of door?




 

 

 


Marj Hahne is a poet and educator who has performed and taught at over 100 venues around the country, as well as been featured on local radio and television programs. Her poems have been published in Paterson Literary Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Mad Poets Review, and Schuylkill Valley Journal of the Arts; and in anthologies such as Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam, An Eye For An Eye Makes The Whole World Blind: Poets On 9/11, and Off the Cuffs: Poetry by and about the police. Marj's poems have also appeared in several art exhibits, as well as been incorporated in the work of visual artists and dancers. She has a poetry CD titled notspeak.