“It’s all in the details.” she said,
combing her cancer-thinned red hair.
“The right forks in the right place.
The right dye color. The right dress.”
Her fingers fondled a brass candlestick,
a fierce dragon, spouting fire from its white taper.
a flicker of a smile crosses her lips.
“Die young and leave a good looking corpse”
She said with a sigh. “That ship has sailed.”
She laughed, a flood of wrinkles across her face.
“But I lived the details well. Everything in place.
My corpse won’t be a thing of beauty,
but it will be well ordered.”
Something in the way she said it
made me believe the details were a lie,
more a prison than a thing to celebrate.
I moved one of her forks, a silver thing,
suddenly out of place, and she laughed again.
“I never could lie well,” she said.
A day later she died, and ever since,
I have savored the truth of her.
About this poem
This poem was modeled on my great aunt Helen. It is not history. Yes, she was a product of the Victorian Age and manners and the right fork mattered to her right to the end. She lived with my family for the last six months of her life, dying when I was 16, her flame red-dyed hair intact to the end. She made a profound impact on my family.
But the moment I write about never happened, except in my mind.