for my grandmother, Helen E. Levreault

The boy sees her lay on the bed, tubes
protruding out from her mouth;
no breath can be called her own.

As he cries into his father’s belly
he thinks of all the prayers he sang,
believing that a melody
made words memorable enough
so God couldn’t ignore them.

He was too afraid to say so
with family in the room
—sitting there, listening to them

say it was okay for her to leave,
but all he heard were his own thoughts,
thinking of ways to convince her to stay.

She was smiling as she always did
—always welcoming, even in a casket;

the wrinkles rippling the sides of her mouth,
eyelids creating crescent moons
as her light trickled
down her lashes, carrying her
to where light was all there was,
where light was all she would be.

Her golden locks tumbled
like foliage bringing a winter.

The winter lasted many moons,
a chill emanating from the boy's bones;
as he slept, his teeth would chatter,

trying to get his lips
to say the goodbye
he kept on the tip of his tongue.

After many sleepless sleeps
the boy begins to write his farewell,
gathering sticks and stones and cinders
to spell out his words in the snow.

He does not care who sees them,
no longer worries whether heaven ignores him,
his toil is what keeps him warm.

He will see the sun rise one day,
it will be gold, its light will ease
his restless frame, thawing
the world around him,
turning his words into oak and cedar.

That day, the foliage will return with a spring,
in which he will bathe
the soot from his body
and see that he is a boy no longer.