They Try

They Try
Kaye Lesley Cleave

Parents shouldn’t have to bury their children
they say,
it’s every mother’s nightmare.
They sit beside me,
carefully as ironing pleats in a skirt
and offer words of comfort
like hors d’oeuvres on a platter.

It should have been me
, my mother cries,
as if death,
a gracious hostess,
serves those who wait in line.

Some cradle my egg-shell body.
Others wash dishes, answer the phone, arrange flowers
in vases and bake casseroles with the ingredients listed.
They brew endless pots of tea.

One man I never met,
the husband of a colleague,
refuses to enter the house
when my daughter’s body comes home.
But he rattles his mower down the driveway
and cuts my patchy square of lawn.

They try.
They try and they try.

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