Practicing Her Eulogy

Alex Chertok

The father of the week-old boy and the mother
of the week-dead son both spoke faraway to me

over the phone. The father’s was the promise
of endlessness a seashell makes to the ear.

The mother’s was the sky’s hoarseness post-storm.
The father said, He was born in the blue of morning.

The mother said, He was found in the black of morning.
Both under the burning halogens that made the black’s blue

bluer, and the blue’s black blacker, and the swollen
more swelled, and the cries more, and the quiet.

Both were years in the making and the finally being held.
So easy to veer left, the mother said, on I-81

into the bus the father had thought of hopping and sleeping
forever on, he said. The mother practiced her eulogy—

she pictured her dead son ceiling’s-eye-view
and rising, smoke signal for finally-free of gravity

and its wait-rooms and flatlines and uptight
need to bore holes in belts, its floored and hang-

dog look, which the baby was already starting to get.
Rising past clouds, who envied his never to return to earth—

he could praise it all, finally, the whole world pocked
with world-ending buttons and the nearby finger’s itch

for apocalypse. He could praise the quivering
proximities from that height: praise the millimeter

of his mother’s car from the father’s bus, the same millimeter
of my own thumb from the phone’s off button.

Praise the foot’s thirst for gas and the hand’s for swerve
on the wheel shaped like a belt looped wrongly round the neck

before the tightening. Praise the belt’s knack for cinch
and the buckle tongue’s for keep, praise that same thin

tongue’s for give. To not run was hard, said the father
in the voice of a puddle his no-sleep was melting him into.

Almost godlike, I said, like a wind through it.
That some do, said the mother whose son she could feel

listening in from a thousand next-rooms,
can be just as almost.

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