Location, Location

By Patty Seyburn Patty Seyburn
So when you go wherever it is you will go
take the moon with you

and make it wear that democratic white shroud,
pocketless, since rich and poor,

we take nothing with us, save a small stick or dowel
in the casket, so we can all

burrow through the earth to the Holy Land
when the time is right.

Please forgive that I confessed your amusement
at Shakespeare’s “mewling and puking”

in my eulogy. (No one laughed—my delivery was off—
but Otto the Undertaker smiled.)

He told me that when I shovel some dirt onto
your soft wood box,

suggestive of the trees where Eve and Adam hid
from the Lord who called—

what were they thinking?—I should press the shovel
back into the pile

before the next mourner—my husband, not a Jew
but a fine man, you said

once if a hundred times—picks it up because to bury
the dead is a mitzvah

that should not be diluted, each person who performs
the act should get the credit,

which we will need when that Miscreant Angel
comes to collect his chit.

Otto dates my step-second cousin twice-removed
and let me say: I hope

they marry. Someone who guides the bereaved through
such a smorgasboard of ritual

with Virgilian ease deserves as much happiness
as can be gainsaid

in the Detroit metropolitan area, legally. By the way,
ma, we never recovered

your wedding ring and pearls after some gonif
pilfered and pawned them

but trust me, when I find him, I’ll shake him
‘til the rich give anonymous charity

or I’ll walk away from trouble the way you taught me to—
otherwise, it follows you

home and perches near the deli tray without bringing
even a cup and saucer.

Were you ready, ma, when your soul and body
signed their final confession,

the angels acting as scribes? No shomer in Rochester Hills
to stave off ill-tempered

ghosts, ungrateful relatives, rodents, to watch you
until you could don

your guf hadak, the celestial garment being fashioned
while your soul went

back and forth between homes. I must steel myself
like the egg that hardens

when cooked, the egg I salt and bite into, half-
listening to the rabbi’s

easeful voice: together we recite, offering God
consolation for His loss,

though I tell my children that you are with God,
and they repeat it so blithely

and I am so busy with mourner’s occupations—
the burying, the tearing,

the endless repetitions, double-taking every mirror
I pass that offers no vision—

I start to believe what I want to believe: your absence
here is your presence there,

wherever there is, every piece of land a personal
Elysian field, the best room

at the Fontainbleau, pied à terre with an obstructed view
of oblivion, a corner booth

at the Rascal House and the miniature danish taste
like manna, as they always did.

Source: Poetry (December 2009).

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This poem originally appeared in the December 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

December 2009
 Patty  Seyburn

Biography

Patty Seyburn has published three books of poems: Hilarity (New Issues Press, 2009), Mechanical Cluster (Ohio State University Press, 2002), and Diasporadic (Helicon Nine Editions, 1998).

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Death, Religion, Judaism

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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