by Christine Adams Beckett

The chest compressions inflated your navel

Grotesquely, reminding me that the absurd scar

Marked an intimate, ancestral connection

To the life of another, your mother.

She made Thanksgiving dinner on the day you were born,

Your stump of an umbilical cord

Still bloody from where it was violently severed.

I imagine they said Grace around a crowded table,

The woman at its head still sore from labor

Desperately erasing the memory of a painful delivery.

This Rockwellian cerebral painting is merely my manufacture,

For I know nothing.

I marked the other end of your existence, navel gazing without the boredom

And contemplated seventy-four years of secrets

You hid from those closest to you.

Seventy-four enigmatic years have left me with snippets

Of information, details I have embellished

To make the complete whole, to fill the holes.

I masked your pain with cowboy boots

And Johnny Cash and a confident demeanor

That hid nothing of consequence.

Music you whistled under inhaled breath

Sucked in more than air. You swallowed ignorance whole

To a cheery tune while you tinkered away on a project

To form a helpful, but incomplete identity.

“There’s beer in the fridge,” you said,

While I constructed an I Love You from the amber, carbonized liquid.

Charles Dickens wrote that every human creature is a profound secret.

Yours is safe now, released to the depths of unfathomable waters.

We will construct the slide show and the eulogy

And create a complete understanding

That we never found

While your navel naturally expanded

And your lungs took purposeful, private breath.