“Music at My Mother’s Funeral” by Faith Shearin

During the weeks when we all believed my mother
was likely to die she began to plan
her funeral and she wanted us, her children,
to consider the music we would play there. We remembered
the soundtrack of my mother’s life: the years when she swept
the floors to the tunes of an eight track cassette called Feelings,
the Christmas when she bought a Bing Crosby album
about a Bright Hawaiian Christmas Day. She got Stravinsky’s
Rite of Spring stuck in the tape deck of her car and for months
each errand was accompanied by some kind
of dramatic movement. After my brother was born,
there was a period during which she wore a muumuu
and devoted herself to King Sunny Ade and his
African beats. She ironed and wept to Evita, painted
to Italian opera. Then, older and heavier, she refused
to fasten her seatbelt and there was the music
of an automated bell going off every few minutes,
which annoyed the rest of us but did not seem to matter
to my mother who ignored its relentless disapproval,
its insistence that someone was unsafe.

 

“Music at My Mother’s Funeral” by Faith Shearin. Poem copyright ©2013 by the Alaska Quarterly Review. Poem via PoetryFoundation.org.


“La mamma morta” by Maria Callas (full translation)

A voice full of harmony says,
“Keep on living, I am life itself!
Your heaven is in my eyes!
You are not alone.
I collect all your tears
I walk with you and support you!
Smile and hope! I am Love! . . .”

“Of Love” by Mary Oliver

I have been in love more times than one,
thank the Lord. Sometimes it was lasting
whether active or not. Sometimes
it was all but ephemeral, maybe only
an afternoon, but not less real for that.
They stay in my mind, these beautiful people,
or anyway beautiful people to me, of which
there are so many. You, and you, and you,
whom I had the fortune to meet, or maybe
missed. Love, love, love, it was the
core of my life, from which, of course, comes
the word for the heart. And, oh, have I mentioned
that some of them were men and some were women
and some—now carry my revelation with you—
were trees. Or places. Or music flying above
the names of their makers. Or clouds, or the sun
which was the first, and the best, the most
loyal for certain, who looked so faithfully into
my eyes, every morning. So I imagine
such love of the world—its fervency, its shining, its
innocence and hunger to give of itself—I imagine
this is how it began.

-Mary Oliver, from Red Bird (Beacon Press, 2008).


“thank u next” by Ariana Grande

“The Best Thing I Did” by Ron Padgett

The best thing I did
for my mother
was to outlive her

for which I deserve
no credit

though it makes me glad
that she didn’t have
to see me die

Like most people
(I suppose)
I feel I should
have done more
for her

Like what?
I wasn’t such a bad son

I would have wanted
to have loved her as much
as she loved me
but I couldn’t
I had a life a son of my own

a wife and my youth that kept going on
maybe too long

And now I love her more
and more

so that perhaps
when I die
our love will be the same

though I seriously doubt
my heart can ever be
as big as hers

 

“The Best Thing I Did” by Ron Padgett from Collected Poems. © Coffee House Press, 2013.


“Mama You Sweet” by Lucinda Williams

“Guest of Honor” by Philip Dacey

Marc Chagall, “La Mariée” 1950.

Every day, I drive by the grave
of my fiancee’s father.
She lost him when she was one.
He’s our intimate stranger,
our guardian angel,
floating a la Chagall
just above our heads.
I go to him for love-lessons.
He touches my hand
with that tenderness
the dead have for the living.
When I touch her hand so,
she knows where I’ve been.
At the wedding,
he’ll give her away to me.
And the glass he’ll raise to toast us
will be a chalice brimful of sun,
his words heard all the more clearly
for their absence, as stone
is cut away to form dates.

“Guest of Honor,” by Philip Dacey

 

“Sitting in the Cell Phone Waiting Lot at the San Francisco Airport, Awaiting My Father’s Arrival, I Write a Poem on the Day of Prince’s Death” by Dean Rader

Every streetlight is a slightly different hue
of white the squares like the blank faces of robots

offer the Hondas and Toyotas idling in the lot something
like hope and yet I am thinking of all of the people on the planes

landing and taking off the twin miracles of arrival and departure
each of them singing “Take Me With You” whether they know

the song or not they are all singing: the pilots the flight attendants
the air traffic controllers the baggage handlers the men and women

with those colored sticks that look like little light sabers
guiding the planes out to the runway where everyone on board leaves

everyone behind and lifts once more into darkness
which is to say that the dead are tired of all the dying and yet it seems

never to stop the most recent plane crash was only seven
days ago when a Sunbird Aviation plane slammed

into the ground just before landing killing all passengers
when I fly I often think about what people do or say

seconds before impact no doubt believing they will somehow
survive that this can’t possibly be the end not me not now not like this

but not my father who is I believe asleep on the plane as the complex physics
of lift keep his steel machine of 75 tons buoyant in the blackness below

God’s feet and even though my father has never heard a song by
Prince Rogers Nelson he finds himself mouthing I don’t care pretty baby

as the jet is slapped by turbulence and he begins to fear for the first
time on this journey but mostly because he starts to believe that flight

is a metaphor for life and that just like dancing or loving or even
riding in an elevator we never know what determines if we fall


Dean Rader’s Works & Days won the 2010 T.S. Eliot Prize. The Barnes & Noble Review named Landscape Portrait Figure Form a Best Poetry Book of the Year. Suture with Simone Muench (Black Lawrence Press) and Self-Portrait as Wikipedia Entry (Copper Canyon) are forthcoming in 2017.

poem and bio via The Awl though I did add the links to Dean’s site and his books at Amazon.


“Take Me With U” performed by Prince Rogers Nelson (June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016)