Eclectic Voices

Fiction, Monologues, Plays & More

To Know or Not Know

A Poem by Laura Lee Bahr

To know or not know?
And in which there’d be comfort?

This myself I ask,
this is the question:
In which and in what is there comfort
for the corpse?

Such a small coffin for a grown woman.
Each mound of dirt
softly from the back of the shovel
then hard digs from the front
on the small coffin
of my lovers’ mother.

I am gasping for air, a fish on land in this new world
(the same world)
But I did not know
(I knew)
I did not really know
How hard the soft dirt sounds
how deafening a shovel-full of earth hits wood.
I have to run to cry behind unknown tombstones
and force myself to remember how to breathe
to return
to walk on these two legs which wobble.
(I am not a fish.)

Next week, I will bring home
ashes in a tin
to join the other ashes in a tin.
Side by side
My Two Cats, once fur, now ash.
Now just pictures and ashes in a tin
on an altar in my apartment.
Also, an empty cedar box where
a kitten’s ashes once were.
I put the kitten’s ashes in dirt
in an apartment where I once lived
and planted flowers.

I visited the place two years later
and they covered the dirt with concrete.
A car parks there now.

Not just others, this end
(now I know)
I already knew
(but I forgot)
that it is for me, too.

Will I know what happens next, here?
Will I hear the soft and then hard dirt?
The growing of flowers or the laying of concrete?
Is it a comfort to hear the cries of your children?
Is it a comfort to know or not know?

A child.
Years past but still always a child
still covered in dirt.
Grass grows there.
Does she remember that we were friends?
Does she remember the life she never had?
Hear the heart-breaking squall of her mother?
Does she remember or feel anything and
Which would be the comfort?

Ash, Bone, Bone, Ash,
Time and space and space and time
into what into what into what into
what? What? What?
Me, too?
Me, too?

I cannot breathe —I gasp in air — I cannot breathe
Unless I forget I am a fish.
Not a fish, then.
Then walk around on two legs
with a To-Do-List and
text messages
and such luxury in the illusion of boredom.

(Ash fire bone flesh dirt
child mother familiar friend)
(Me, too.)
The only comfort is to forget.

But I better make a Will.

Here it is:
Do Not Bury Me.
Mix my ashes with those of my cat familiars.
Do Not Put Us In Dirt
But Just Wait for A Strong Wind
A Wind that Just for a Moment
Picks Everything Up
and then sets it
Upside Down.

Perhaps I shall return as neither and both things
instead of which one?
whiskers and a tail
still on two legs
and wash my hands with my tongue
And eat all the fish, both forgetful and remembering fish,
Without remorse or fear or hope of a future
yearning only for a patch of sun in which to sleep
(perchance to dream)
(and forget forget forget)

Listen! you still with ears
and See! you still with eyes,
this is my Will and Testament:
Mix me into a cocktail with my dead cats’ ashes!
Wait for That Strong Wind —
Wind that Just for a Moment
Picks Everything Up
and then sets it
Upside Down.

Then we will laugh, cry and meow
and no —not cry— just laugh to know
that we
lightly lightly
appear and disappear
in the light
that shows the flecks of dust
that swim in the air
you breathe
you, who still breathe.

Laura Lee Bahr is the author of the short stories Happy Hour and The Liar (available in the anthologies DEMONS, winner of the Bram Stoker award and PSYCHOS, edited by John Skipp and published by Black Dog & Leventhal). She is the award-winning screenwriter of the feature films Jesus Freak and the little Death. Her first novel, HAUNT, received the Wonderland Book Award.

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This entry was posted on May 29, 2017 by in Poetry and tagged , .
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