The Weirdness of Dead Infantas
There is a shrouded space beside me
that people leave free; not wanting to intrude
or get too close; grief’s easier in Emily Dickinson,
short lines and distance. This space
is wheelchair shaped and I keep checking it
in case your ghost is hungry.
Another mouthful? No resistance,
When spoon meets empty air. As always you’re
silent as the grave, though now and then I catch the
random shimmer of your sounds.
The words I used to speak for you
lie crumbling at the bottom of my bag,
not thrown out, still powdering everything.
How’s the best girl in the world?
Not in the world, I think, remembering
that Portuguese prince who travelled with his
dead Infanta propping her beside him
on foreign thrones. How weird
the guidebook said, but I am not so sure …
Forgetfulness is weirder.
I had met them before; in supermarket aisles
on Sunday walks, at funerals of course,
not recognizing what they were; not taking in
their message even as I pressed my face
to sympathy; they seemed like giant cormorants
crossing my trolleyed path; spilling stories
as far as Star-wars from my fortunate life;
I hope I didn’t yawn or look too often at my watch
as on and on their voices flowed
between the cereal boxes and the cling-film,
The ambulance, the hospital, the awful coldness …
I may have used you as my alibi;
She’s getting tired, we’ll have to go.
Excuses gone, I flap among the broken pallets
handing on grief to women I have met
on sunnier days with children like my own.
Some sup my tale; some edge away
talking of cakes and special offers,
the silly singles of normality.
With my black wings
and constant pallor, I know myself at last:
A harbinger, one who has half crossed over.