You Already Know This

Amanda Auchter

The Moment

by Amanda Auchter

If I was asked how I felt when I watched
            you in death, I would explain the stone
pit in my throat, the hard swallow

in the air of your not breathing. When I found you,

I gathered the sheet from the closet
            to cover your body —how still
you looked, how asleep—but it was not enough.  

                      You already know this, I imagine,
how little I could manage—the flowered sheet, 

and after, how I sat on the porch in the August dark

as our father placed the sheet beside the back door.
            How he passed through

           grief in a way that I could not, my own
body vanishing into the field of the night. 

Decorating the Tombs: All Saints’ Day

by Amanda Auchter

After the wood engraving by John Durkin, November 1885

We bring our bread and fall flowers,

a table spread with rust linen,
forks and plates. We bring paper crowns,

a sheaf of wheat, press each against white-
washed tombs, offer our prayers, our baskets
of harvest: yellow chrysanthemums,

red coxcombs, wreaths of black glass
beads. Keepsakes in the glow

of our children’s hands, fields
of candlelight, lamp oil, the distant

burst of lightning. Each stone
a vessel we bring our mouths to, touch
and whisper, wipe clear of lichen, soot.

Around us, the city blurs in dusk: low blue

between the coliseum of houses, men
with their carts of ice, tomatoes. We lift

our spoons of pudding and don’t speak
of the rising river, fevers, how soon the damp
earth will shutter our eyes, dredge the backs

of our throats. How soon, too, the night
will come, the rats for our crumbs,

the water, the ruin, for our tender bones.