My Mother Birthed My Brother Just Months Before Her Father Died

& on Saturdays my father drove her,
baby in her arms, so she could
catch the flight to see her dying dad.
My brother just an infant. When he tries
to remember this, he only finds
the space where something might be held.
A shelf dusted by the absence
of books. It’s funny, what dying
makes us do. My mother’s brothers,
all five of them, stood gathered in the smoking room
puffing on cigars, having convinced the nurse
to let their father in with them. The smoke
billowed into the upper reaches
of their container & they looked up to watch,
trying to grin at the calm
violence of the world. I hadn’t been born.
I can only imagine how every weekend
my father drove & every weekend my mother
held my brother & every weekend her father
grew closer to never having met me.
Like smoke, I think the world must be
a thing you hold in your closed fist
not knowing whether you have it or not.
Maybe this is heaven, this place of shadow & light
where all of us are still living.
Sometimes in a bar, I’m gripped
by the cool & delicate urge to tell a stranger
I’m sorry for your loss. I never do.
Always there is that one tree standing
that never shed its leaves & the rings of Saturn
are made of ice. It goes on, is what I mean.
Life. My mother is still here to tell me this story
while she eats an egg. She smiles
& sometimes laughs at the past as if
she can’t believe it happened.
But it did, you know. The world needs
more examples of love. A lily flower
on a dark pond. The eternal body dancing.
A poem that goes on forever.
The ice melting & the tongue outstretched
to drink it. My mother & her brothers & my own
in a room I never knew. Though, if there is smoke
& at least one eye crying, I think that room
still exists. I think that room is like most rooms today
& all the people in them. Call them trying.
Call them whatever-you-make-of-it.
Call them doing better or making do. Call your mother
at least ten thousand times before she dies
& call your father to pick you up from the airport
when you are done.

By Devin Kelly