Requiem for Lee, a Boyfriend

My brown body bows–
bends before the mason brick.
I convinced myself I could
Had to: Leg please move.
I am cement– my leg a frozen glacier.
My swollen foot throbs
under the weight of truth:
like Atlas, I shift the burden to my shoulders
and move. I am free from the mason brick,
the cement sidewalk. I am inside
signing the guest book.

I smell the soft scent of cornflowers, but this is no wedding.
I turn the pages, search for recognizable names.
I feel the presence of someone behind me:
I must move on. Next.
In the back I sit, on the right I sit.
Try not to touch strangers, but it is crowded.
My thigh rests against a caramel woman;
my shoulder brushes a grandmother. She will not be
still. Stale Big Red dissolves between my teeth –
with each chew, I block tears,
listen intently to the syllables of your life.

No one mentions me, I note on old grocery receipts:
“2% Milk, La Croix, Riesling.”
Maybe I drink too much, I think.
But the pastor is shouting now and
I come out of myself:
“He’s painting universes in the sky now!”
“He was ready to go!”
“He is in a better place.”
I focus on the cadence, the stress of this voice
imploring to me: move on.

The grandmother is ready to exit the pew.
The caramel woman has already gone.
My wedding would have been just like this.
I rise and walk down the aisle
Walk past the guest book, walk out the triple doors,
make it to the driver’s side. Like the seat on which I sit,
I am fabric unraveling– my fingers vice grips
holding onto the steering wheel for life.

The SUVs go. The sedans go. The sports cars go.
I am parked and watch the lot clear.
No one is expecting me at the family house. In my rear
view window, I see the streetlights turn on. I shift into gear and
drive forward,

Seretha D. Williams is a professor of English at Augusta University in Georgia. She has published essays on poets Langston Hughes and Margaret Walker. Her poetry has appeared in Blackberry: A Magazine and Mom Egg Review

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