Thursday, March 16, 2017

Confessions of a Part-time Mourner

On a daily basis, I am compelled
to read Journey's End,
my newspaper's linguistic fig leaf
for the death notices column.

I focus my morbid curiosity
on the younger ones first.
But some photos are decades old,
and I feel strangely hoodwinked
when I learn the fair young woman
in the grainy photo
made it through 88 winters.

You grew up on a northern Ohio farm
and must have been in your teens
when you married the late Greshon.
Together, you raised dairy cows
and your six surviving children.
You spent your last five years
in a nursing home.
I want to believe your children
didn't let you languish,
that they visited often
and still revered the woman
who gave them light.

I want to think you were alive
and feisty to the end,
even had fits of temper
and lobbed your jelly breads
at perky candy-stripers.

When you left this world,
did you go out with a whimper,
or did you look death in the maw,
screaming and spitting,
and fight for more time?

However it ended,
you had years enough
to see your hair turn grey
and watch the wrinkles etch
your downy cheeks.

Other lives on this page
shut down far too soon.
they perished in car crashes,
drowned in rivers while fishing
or stopped a stray bullet
on a mean city street.
Fate flipped the OFF switch,
letting them die with their gifts unspent.

I exhale slowly...
and thank God for missing me again.

— Joanne Greenway

Confessions of a Part-time Mourner is from the debut collection of poems by Joanne Greenway entitled, Limited Engagement. Published in 2014 by Finishing Line Press, Limited Engagement "draws on recent and recovered memories of small town life and growing up in a colorful Italian-American family."

Joanne Greenway holds a master’s degree in French literature from Indiana University. She began writing poetry in 2004.

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