September 12, 2012KR OnlinePoetry

Diorama of a Funeral; Diorama of a Tiny Death

Diorama of a Funeral

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I pour a salt solution into the shoebox, enough
               to float the whole chrysanthemum rigmarole—

rubber bouncy balls: my aunts like buoys
               in a sea of black felt, draped like mourning

frocks on the kitchen’s tiled horizon,
               where my mother drags her dinghy of hope—
                              an old birthday balloon, poked through.

I smear some ink on her arm for a bruise, still new,
               and pull her into the living room,
                                                                           where a tide
of grackles rises and falls,
                                             confetti at the window.

I shred my grandfather’s tissue fingers,
               his fluttering deafness, and construct
                              a tree of twigs to mimic behind him.

The plastic pastor roofs our doll-sized guilt
               with two webbed hands, the blessing missing.

I tip my father’s empty chair, forbidden,
               rosary beads as the metronome plays the role

of our gold-gilt clock, clucking its old tongue
               at a rafted shirtless Barbie: little sister sleeping.

Later, I will move our tiny feet though the dark box,
               trap dawn’s infant breaths under netted fog,

and finger-trace my father’s name, the crack that spreads
               across the scene’s fourth wall, invisible.

Diorama of a Tiny Death

Beneath a paper ceiling the basement sways,
               keeps the hidden basinet, still

lined with sloughed off skin, rustle of dry petals
               inside—mums, a residual hush,

or just the murmur of an emptied room.

It echoes up the razor-slit vents, ripples
               like wind along the nursery walls, arched

windows die-cut, one pane yet punched
               free, left hanging.
                                               In the corner, a mobile
of Maple helicopter pods, half pink,
               half tawny blades broke open, spilling

dead seeds from their bellies. No dolls
               in this house—only a spindle

red-dressed in thread, unraveling
               on the bed in the room next door.

I nudge the shrunken comforter,
               a patch of salvaged gauze—swish

then crunch of exoskeleton, peeking
               iridescent from beneath. My finger

jumps, but then I see—just an onion husk
               for bedding.
                                      Misfortune is a house
               built for sibilance, and this is

where the haunted sleep, each breath a question:
               shuffle of feet, self, or nothing?

Rochelle Hurt is the author of two books of poetry: In Which I Play the Runaway (Barrow Street, 2016), which won the Barrow Street Book Prize, and The Rusted City: A Novel in Poems (White Pine, 2014). She lives in Pittsburgh and teaches at Slippery Rock University.