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.