By Kathryn Paulsen

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Mom is being buried today.
We will never see her face again except in photographs.
The coffin lid came down a week ago, forever,
or at least the seventy-five years it’s guaranteed.
Only seventy-five years, although it’s made of copper
the salesman said was indestructible.
We’ll all be long gone by then,
except for the grandchildren (maybe)
and great-grandchild.
Something to be said for being buried
not too far from Disneyland.

Four months later, on Shelter Island,
a cloud is coming toward us,
swiftly falling, like the ghost
of a meteor about to self-destruct.  I can’t
tear my eyes away, until it passes—
not falling after all, only moving on
to the next—house, table, life.

I want it open.
Do we all want it open?
We take our seats under a shelter,
in the heat, before the coffin.
No music.  One peachy pink spray
of flowers at the head
from we don’t yet know whom.
My sister speaks.  I read a eulogy.
My father whispers thanks.  Even the men
are crying.  The minister, older,
a widower himself, says his piece.

This national cemetery has its procedures
we are told we must follow:
                                                        Go away
while they put her in the ground.
They won’t let us stay there for that
because she’s one of a number
to be done today. 
                               Should we
 have asked, pressed, challenged,
 or is it maybe just as well?

Can’t believe I’m writing this
in public at a table on a deck,
among new friends, only one of whom
knows what happened, more or less,
sheltered by hat and tear-concealing dark glasses.
Across the table a headline from the Money & Business section:
“Knowing when to say ‘sell.'”

– Kathryn Paulsen