by Linda Casebeer 

The story of life

We could feel the evening falling around us
though it was noon when clouds covered the sun
above the chapel lit only by natural light
filtering through the windows
and upwards from the window wells
the guidebook said low light lent an ancient
and melancholy air to the fresco we had come
to Italy to see God the father creating Adam
their fingers almost touching except for a small
space left between the two in anticipation
of that moment when God would complete
his creation but in the dull light the fresco
distant and blurred by macular degeneration
and glaucoma for Ed who decided to ask
the guards what time they would turn on
the lights after all in the story of life God
had risen into the sky with arms outstretched
to separate light from darkness evening
and then morning of the first day but that day
Ed was one of those the official husher tried
every few minutes to quiet the crowd forever
changing but always always looking up and sighing

Strange angels

American Horror Story haunted an old
house a gorgeous Tudor with Tiffany
fixtures transforming light
into ordinary horror not so terrifying
until the second season when the Story
took up residence in an asylum
also not so frightening for most
no more than a haunted house
but it was the asylum of my nightmare
where three strange angels knock
on the door while D.H. Lawrence
shakes his fist at me and shouts
admit them admit them and when I do
open the door I find Norma splintered
in a Picasso portrait with her blond son
Norman the father of my children
holding the hand of the third angel
an anonymous towheaded baby girl
wandering off into a clouded dream
without an answer to these questions
1) is it true that angels represent
what has been lost and
2) what am I to do with these three
barefoot angels that elicit body memories
of pregnancy the little souls moving
around in my belly four times
creating in me a certain vulnerability
all hormones and love we were young
then twenty somethings seeking romance
and orgasms playing house and haunted
by Norma who had never agreed
to give up either of her sons to marriage
meanwhile with each birth my focus
turned more inward first in utero
then towards the small warm beings
it was during those baby years
when the last two girls where born
a year apart that I lost track of myself
and world events as they unfolded
a peanut farmer president hostages
taken I think I forgot to vote
the year an actor was elected then later                                      
the Iran contra affair and other whole
blocks of news I never followed
or music that changed with the body
politic all a blur until the marriage
finally shattered after Norma decided
to reclaim her sons and send me 
to an asylum transference a doctor
would later explain she the strange angel
who would take care of everything
and even when I heard it as crazy talk
I could feel the sensation of walls
closing in of doors slammed shut
gauzy claustrophobia wrapped around
me in Central State Hospital the place
where my own depressed mother
had volunteered as a Gold Lady
and though that asylum was closed
years ago claustrophobia still
finds its way back to me in dream

Her body was small in the box

On a ship anchored off Tortola the island 
named for turtle doves I watched tenders
in the distance transport tourists back and forth
while I stayed with Mr. Fox: A Novel that twisted
and turned in on itself a metafictional plot
of murder and mayhem when the father
who murdered the mother was viewed
by his daughter as small in his coffin
this muse brought back to me my own mother
dead these few months not murdered
unless I did kill her by insisting on morphine
for the intensity of her pain

either way at the end her body was delivered
before dawn one Sunday in June to a deep South
funeral home tastefully set back in time
where cremations were complicated
by the need for signatures from every sibling
as a defense against drama our own family
unpredictable in that way since years before
one sister had hijacked the burial of our brother
the one closest to our mother and the only boy
so we didn’t seem to mind that he was her favorite
until he broke her heart the year she said
he drank himself to death

when we discovered we could bury her body
without all siblings signing since a body
could always be exhumed to settle a fight
discussions turned to a sea island cemetery
three states away Spanish moss palmettos
azaleas and a thousand brown live oak leaves
behind a three hundred year old church
the double headstone already engraved
with her name but not the year of her death
and after a couple of gin and tonics
the good sister thought we could kill two
birds with one stone like the aphorisms
so common among our mother’s people 

we could bury her in the mink stroller
her name embroidered in the lining
of the coat she waited so long to own                                                     
but none of us now could imagine wearing
until that night I reread her will
with her request to be cremated
and I felt her claustrophobia punch right
through the lid of any satin-lined coffin
we could choose so it came down to the third
girl a notarized signature I finally asked
for and she did offer more out of the shock
of the death itself coming within a day

in what as children we thought was meant
by the quick and the dead in the creed
that told us what to believe in
but leaving only my identification
of her body to the mortician he said
he had prepared her in a cardboard
box for cremation and as if she had shrunk
that last day ever she was small in the box

About the Author:

linda C.

Linda Casebeer lives in Birmingham, Alabama. She has published one collection of poems, The Last Eclipsed Moon, from Cherry Grove Collections, and poems in Slant, Earth’s Daughters, Chest, and Hospital Drive, Knowing Stones and The Light of Ordinary Things among others.