Your nurse could only speak Italian,
but after twenty minutes I could imagine your final week,
and tears ran down my cheeks….
When I embarked from Italy with my Mother’s body,
the whole shoreline of the Golfo di Genova
was breaking into fiery flower.
The crazy yellow and azure sea-sleds
blasting like jack-hammers across
the spumante-bubbling wake of our liner,
recalled the clashing colors of my Ford.
Mother traveled first-class in the hold;
her Risorgimento black and gold casket
was like Napoleon’s at the Invalides….
While the passengers were tanning
on the Mediterranean in deck-chairs,
our family cemetery in Dunbarton
lay under the White Mountains
in the sub-zero weather.
The graveyard’s soil was changing to stone-
so many of its deaths had been midwinter.
Dour and dark against the blinding snowdrifts,
its black brook and fir trunks were as smooth as masts.
A fence of iron spear-hafts
black-bordered its mostly Colonial grave-slates.
The only “unhistoric” soul to come here
was Father, now buried beneath his recent
unweathered pink-veined slice of marble.
Even the Latin of his Lowell motto:
seemed too businesslike and pushing here,
where the burning cold illuminated
the hewn inscriptions of Mother’s relatives:
twenty or thirty Winslows and Starks.
Frost had given their names a diamond edge….
In the grandiloquent lettering on Mother’s coffin,
Lowell had been misspelled LOVEL.
was wrapped like panettone in Italian tinfoil.
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