To a Stranger

Yet another poem written for my Poetry Through Lyrics class. ūüôā

**

You are strange to me, my love,

The very thought of you is nothing more than a quiet whisper, a hope too shy

To be spoken of in the light of day, where the bald sun might come and chase it away.

You are strange to me, my love.

**

You are strange to me, my love,

And though I think of you often, with fondness

It is not you I think of, and the face that I picture,

Is nothing like yours will be.

And so you are strange to me, my love.

**

And it is strange to me, my love,

That the dreams and despairs and cold calculations of my sins will be shared with you,

Intimately, yearningly, waiting for absolution

With you, a stranger, I will become one.

It is strange to me, my love.

**

You are strange to me, my love

For you are a thousand creatures- a man of patience, hastiness, arrogance, humility-

A cacophony of voices and the faces on the street

We have spoken many times, and we have never met before

You are strange to me, my love.

**

I am strange to you, no doubt

She who you will find beautiful

Will I raise you from perdition, or shall you rescue me?

On the stage that waits, empty,

Shall our story be played through,

Ringing cries of heartbreak, joy, and everything else‚ÄĒ

But now there is only dust, and me to wait for you,

Silent, in the wings, looking across to catch a glimpse

Of your face on the other side, distant,

As you wait for me.

I am strange to you, my love.

**

Of course we shall not be strange forever and I am sure that given time

We shall look back in longing on the days when mystery remained

To disguise each other’s faults, and the petty little grievances

That shall plague our day to days.

But today I cannot help

But wish with all my heart,

That you were not quite so strange to me, my love.

The Funeral Girl

There  was  something  about  standing  over  someone’s  grave.

Dorothy  would  never  admit  it  out  loud,  but  every  time  she  saw  the  mourners  standing  alone,  quiet  and  eloquent,  over  the  graves  of  friends  and  family,  she  felt  a  tiny  spark  of  yearning  to  get  to  do  the  same  herself.  Not  that  she  wanted  anyone  she  loved  to  die.  She  was  even  sort  of  sad,  when  she  remembered  to  be,  for  those  people  mourning.  It  was  complicated,  with  Dorothy.

It  all  started  with  her  mother,  poor,  newly  single,  and  alone  but  for  newborn  Dorothy  in  the  heart  of  old  Chicago.  It  was  not  easy  to  be  a  single  mother  then,  Dorothy  imagined.  It  still  wasn’t,  twelve  years  later,  but  she  imagined  it  was  even  less  easy  back  then.  Mother  had  been  offered  a  couple  of  dollars  off  her  rent  if  she  agreed  to  take  Dorothy-  babies  were  always  a  nice  touch-  to  one  funeral  every  weekend,  to  fill  space  in  the  pews.  Their  apartment  was  owned  by  one  Golde  and  Schuymann’s  Funeral  Parlor-  Since  1876,  and  Mother  had  said  yes,  why  not.  Dorothy  was  pretty  sure  she  wished  she’d  turned  them  down  flat,  now,  but  it  was  too  late  to  do  anything  about  that.

So  Dorothy  had  grown  up  going  to  funerals  every  Saturday,  instead  of  to  the  park  or  the  movie  theater.  When  her  mother  had  been  forced  to  take  a  job  that  required  her  to  work  on  weekends  in  order  to  pay  the  rising  rent,  Dorothy  had  been  handed  the  task  of  attending  the  funerals  by  herself,  and  she  had  taken  to  it  like  a  fish  to  water.  It  was  a  lot  more  complicated  and  demanding  than  it  looked.  She  learned  the  right  things  to  think  about  to  get  herself  to  cry  when  the  service  suggested  tears  would  be  appropriate,  and  she  figured  out  exactly  how  much  about  the  person  she  needed  to  know  to  be  able  to  throw  in  nostalgic  anecdotes,  to  spark  another  wave  of  tears  from  the  relatives.  She  was,  if  she  said  so  herself,  one  of  the  best.

Of ¬†course, ¬†if ¬†that ¬†was ¬†all ¬†she ¬†did, ¬†she‚Äôd ¬†have ¬†long ¬†since ¬†tired ¬†of ¬†her ¬†hobby. ¬†As ¬†different ¬†as ¬†people ¬†might ¬†be ¬†alive, ¬†they ¬†were ¬†all ¬†the ¬†same ¬†when ¬†they ¬†were ¬†dead. ¬†Funerals ¬†had ¬†such ¬†a ¬†dull, ¬†sameness ¬†to ¬†them ¬†that ¬†Dorothy ¬†had ¬†begun ¬†keeping ¬†a ¬†score ¬†of ¬†the ¬†really ¬†unique ¬†ones, ¬†as ¬†well ¬†as ¬†a ¬†list ¬†of ¬†Things ¬†That ¬†Always ¬†Happen, ¬†to ¬†dull ¬†the ¬†inevitable ¬†boredom. ¬†Crying ¬†happened ¬†all ¬†the ¬†time, ¬†of ¬†course, ¬†as ¬†did ¬†people ¬†turning ¬†up ¬†out ¬†of ¬†the ¬†woodwork ¬†to ¬†look ¬†good ¬†in ¬†the ¬†eyes ¬†of ¬†God ¬†and ¬†get ¬†in ¬†on ¬†the ¬†will, ¬†but ¬†there ¬†was ¬†the ¬†occasional ¬†funeral ¬†that ¬†broke ¬†all ¬†the ¬†rules, ¬†and ¬†decided ¬†to ¬†be ¬†interesting. ¬†(The ¬†one ¬†she ¬†immediately ¬†thought ¬†of ¬†was ¬†the ¬†man ¬†who‚Äôd ¬†had ¬†only ¬†three ¬†people ¬†at ¬†his ¬†funeral, ¬†one ¬†of ¬†whom ¬†being ¬†his ¬†widow, ¬†who‚Äôd ¬†said ¬†that ¬†the ¬†best ¬†she ¬†could ¬†say ¬†about ¬†him ¬†was ¬†that ¬†he ¬†was ¬†determined, ¬†and ¬†that ¬†she‚Äôd ¬†stop ¬†there ¬†so ¬†as ¬†not ¬†to ¬†speak ¬†ill ¬†of ¬†the ¬†dead- ¬†but ¬†that ¬†was ¬†another ¬†story ¬†for ¬†another ¬†time.) ¬†¬†¬†And ¬†of ¬†course, ¬†everyone ¬†wore ¬†black. ¬†Why ¬†was ¬†black ¬†the ¬†color ¬†one ¬†wore ¬†to ¬†funerals? ¬†She ¬†sort ¬†of ¬†understood ¬†the ¬†idea ¬†of ¬†punishing ¬†oneself ¬†for ¬†living ¬†while ¬†the ¬†beloved ¬†did ¬†not, ¬†but ¬†black ¬†wasn‚Äôt ¬†even ¬†the ¬†ugliest ¬†color. ¬†Tan ¬†was. ¬†When ¬†she ¬†went ¬†home ¬†the ¬†night ¬†after ¬†coming ¬†up ¬†with ¬†that ¬†brilliant ¬†thought, ¬†she ¬†added ¬†an ¬†appendix ¬†to ¬†the ¬†detailed ¬†plan ¬†for ¬†her ¬†own ¬†funeral ¬†that ¬†she ¬†kept ¬†under ¬†her ¬†pillow: ¬†‚ÄėEverybody ¬†has ¬†to ¬†wear ¬†tan.‚Äô

Mother  had  learned  of  the  list,  and  began  to  worry  from  then  on  that  she’d  scarred  Dorothy  for  life  by  bringing  her  to  so  many  funerals  when  she  was  a  baby.  Dreadfully  morbid,  she  called  her.

Dorothy  insisted  that  scarred  for  life  or  not,  she  liked  going  to  them,  and  she’d  only  sneak  off  to  another  place’s  funerals  on  weekends  if  Mother  forbade  going  to  this  one’s,  and  wouldn’t  Mother  like  to  know  where  she  was,  especially  since  there  had  been  reports  of  gang  violence  in  the  area?

There  hadn’t  been  reports  of  gang  violence  in  the  area,  as  it  happens,  but  Mother  was  particularly  weak  to  that  line  of  reasoning,  and  she  always  gave  in.

A  few  years  back,  she’d  gone  to  the  funeral  of  a  girl  in  her  class  who’d  died  of  polio.  It  had  been  the  first  time  she’d  ever  gone  to  the  funeral  of  someone  she  had  actually  talked  to,  and  it  had  struck  her  as  funny  how  different  dead  Lula  seemed  from  alive  Lula.  She  had  had  one  of  those  awkward  faces  that  might  have  looked  nicer  once  she  got  a  bit  older,  and  bony  elbows.  And  she  hadn’t  even  been  very  nice,  only  when  her  mother  or  the  teacher  was  looking.  But  they’d  managed  to  find  a  lovely  picture  of  her  that  made  her  face  look  almost  as  soft  and  round  as  Minnie  Parfette  from  the  pawn  shop,  whom  Dorothy  had  worshipped  when  she  was  younger-  and  they  dressed  her  body  up  in  her  best  dress,  and  talked  about  her  as  if  she  had  been  an  angel  incarnate.  Dorothy  had  learned  that  word  just  before  Lula  died,  and  she  thought  it  quite  a  nice  word.  Incarnate.  It  almost  sounded  sinful.  She  wondered  how  many  of  the  people  she’d  mourned  had  been  like  Lula  when  they  were  alive.

And  then  came  the  only  funeral  she  would  ever  be  expressly  forbidden  from  attending.  Her  mother  got  the  news  by  telephone  that  her  long  lost  husband  had  died  in  a  bar  eight  blocks  down  the  road.  She  put  down  the  receiver  with  tears  in  her  eyes,  but  when  she  saw  Dorothy  watching  her,  her  back  stiffened  and  her  face  tightened  into  an  expression  Dorothy  had  never  seen  directed  at  her  before.

‚ÄúYou‚Äôre ¬†not ¬†to ¬†go ¬†to ¬†this ¬†one, ¬†do ¬†you ¬†hear ¬†me?‚ÄĚ ¬†she‚Äôd ¬†said, ¬†and ¬†even ¬†contrary ¬†Dorothy ¬†knew ¬†better ¬†than ¬†to ¬†argue ¬†with ¬†that ¬†tone.

But  it  didn’t  stop  her  from  hiding  in  the  alley,  afterwards,  watching  her  mother  stand  over  his  grave.  Her  mother  hadn’t  spoken  of  him  in  how  many  years,  and  here  she  was,  crying,  and  telling  him  things  like  how  Dorothy  was  head  of  her  class  in  science.  It  didn’t  really  make  sense  to  Dorothy.  Not  that  her  reasonable,  ordinary  mother  was  capable  of  great  grief-  she  saw  reasonable,  ordinary  people  become  wailing  wrecks  every  Saturday.  But  her  father  had  left  them  to  seek  fame  and  fortune  in  Hollywood  and  Mother  had  said  it  was  for  the  best,  and  that  they  were  a  team  now.  But  she  couldn’t  begrudge  her  mother  her  tears.  Dorothy’d  never  been  in  love.  And  her  mother  was  at  least,  one  of  the  more  interesting  grave  standers.

She  wasn’t  quite  sure  why  standing  over  someone’s  grave  was  so  important  to  her.  There  was  something  about  that  person  left  there  all  by  himself,  after  the  fuss  and  ceremony  of  the  burial  was  over  and  the  people  had  gone  away,  just  him,  and  the  freshly  turned  dirt.  She  had  hidden  in  the  alley  next  to  the  graveyard  many  times  and  just  watched  the  people  who  stood  by  graves.  Countless  people  had  confessed  crimes  that  would  have  chilled  the  ears  of  a  devil,  and  even  more  people  claimed  death  defying  love  and  eternal  loyalty  and  other  such  fancy  words.  These  were  strange  to  Dorothy.  The  crimes  she  understood.  If  you  waited  till  now  to  tell  someone  it  was  you  that  killed  their  dog  when  they  were  little  because  you’d  gotten  tired  of  letting  it  out,  you  didn’t  have  to  worry  about  them  being  angry  or  hurt.  Dead  people  can’t  feel  hurt  or  anger.  But  they  can’t  forgive  you,  either,  so  there  was  still  something  a  bit  sad  about  the  criminal  confessions.  And  the  love  ones  were  sadder-  they  couldn’t  do  anything  about  it  now,  even  if  they  might  have  wanted  to  when  they  were  alive.  Why  would  anyone  wait  so  long  to  mention  it?

Dorothy  settled  in  to  wait,  herself.

It  wasn’t  raining.  It  would  have  made  the  picture  perfect  if  it’d  been  raining.  Actually,  the  sky  was  a  perfect,  crystal  blue,  sharp  and  pale  with  the  nip  of  autumn  winds.  A  swallow  darted  from  the  tangled  web  of  branches  that  shielded  the  tiny  graveyard  from  the  probing  windows  and  glaring  brick  of  the  surrounding  buildings.

Dorothy’s  mother  left  the  graveside  after  almost  an  hour,  and  Dorothy  knew  this  was  her  moment.  She  would  probably  never  have  a  better  chance  to  stand  at  someone’s  grave.  Heart  pounding  a  bit,  she  scaled  the  chain  link  fence  with  practiced  ease,  and  dropped  to  the  ground  on  the  other  side  with  a  thud,  rubbing  her  numb  fingers  together.  Approaching  the  grave,  she  was  surprised  to  find  herself  slightly  nervous.  And  then  she  was  there.

She  was  standing  over  someone’s  grave.

The ¬†headstone ¬†was ¬†fairly ¬†typical, ¬†not ¬†too ¬†nice, ¬†not ¬†too ¬†shabby. ¬†Her ¬†father‚Äôs ¬†name ¬†was ¬†all ¬†alone ¬†with ¬†the ¬†dates, ¬†no ¬†‚Äėbeloved ¬†husband‚Äô ¬†or ¬†‚Äėdevoted ¬†father‚Äô ¬†for ¬†him. ¬†Dorothy ¬†was ¬†glad.

She  shifted  uncomfortably.

What  was  she  doing  here?  So  what  if  he’d  been  her  father?  He’d  forfeited  the  rights  to  that  title  long  ago.  She  hadn’t  known  him.  She  didn’t  really  want  to  have  known  him.

It ¬†looked ¬†a ¬†lot ¬†more ¬†romantic ¬†than ¬†it ¬†felt. ¬†Dorothy ¬†really ¬†didn‚Äôt ¬†even ¬†feel ¬†anything ¬†except ¬†a ¬†sudden ¬†empathy ¬†for ¬†those ¬†grave ¬†standers ¬†she’d ¬†silently ¬†judged. ¬†It ¬†was ¬†quite ¬†a ¬†bit ¬†harder ¬†than ¬†it ¬†looked. ¬†She ¬†tried ¬†to ¬†imagine ¬†herself ¬†confessing ¬†love ¬†to ¬†the ¬†gravestone ¬†of ¬†the ¬†cutest ¬†boy ¬†in ¬†her ¬†grade, ¬†Henry ¬†Edward ¬†Anderson, ¬†and ¬†shuddered. ¬†Focus, ¬†Dorothy, ¬†she ¬†told ¬†herself. ¬†You’ve ¬†a ¬†job ¬†to ¬†do. ¬†Mourn ¬†for ¬†him.

It  was  awfully  cold  out  here,  wasn’t  it?

Dorothy  stamped  her  feet  against  the  chill,  and  blew  on  her  hands.  She  should  try  to  say  something,  probably.  She  tried  to  think  of  something  to  say.  Clearing  her  throat,  then  wincing  as  the  noise  broke  a  silence  she  hadn’t  been  aware  was  gathering,  she  licked  her  lips  and  spoke.

‚ÄúI ¬†guess ¬†I ¬†wish ¬†I‚Äôd ¬†known ¬†you,‚ÄĚ ¬†she ¬†said, ¬†unknowingly ¬†countering ¬†her ¬†thoughts ¬†from ¬†only ¬†a ¬†few ¬†minutes ¬†before. ¬†As ¬†soon ¬†as ¬†the ¬†words ¬†were ¬†out ¬†of ¬†her ¬†mouth ¬†Dorothy ¬†was ¬†mentally ¬†berating ¬†herself. ¬†That ¬†was ¬†terrible, ¬†she ¬†thought ¬†fiercely. ¬†She ¬†sounded ¬†like ¬†a ¬†stone. ¬†Where ¬†was ¬†her ¬†grief? ¬†Where ¬†were ¬†her ¬†tears? ¬†She‚Äôd ¬†been ¬†grieving ¬†every ¬†Saturday ¬†for ¬†as ¬†long ¬†as ¬†she ¬†could ¬†remember. ¬†This ¬†should ¬†be ¬†easy. ¬†But ¬†for ¬†some ¬†reason, ¬†all ¬†the ¬†wailing ¬†and ¬†crying ¬†that ¬†had ¬†always ¬†come ¬†so ¬†naturally ¬†abandoned ¬†her, ¬†and ¬†looked ¬†enormously ¬†terrifying ¬†and ¬†foreign ¬†in ¬†retrospect, ¬†looming ¬†over ¬†her ¬†like ¬†a ¬†pagan ¬†god ¬†she‚Äôd ¬†unknowingly ¬†worshipped ¬†now ¬†that ¬†she ¬†was ¬†faced ¬†with ¬†the ¬†prospect ¬†of ¬†summoning ¬†it ¬†naturally. ¬†She ¬†wasn‚Äôt ¬†even ¬†sure ¬†if ¬†she ¬†could ¬†make ¬†herself ¬†cry, ¬†and ¬†she’d ¬†mastered ¬†that ¬†a ¬†long ¬†time ¬†ago. ¬†And ¬†even ¬†if ¬†she ¬†could- ¬†it ¬†wasn’t ¬†that ¬†hard, ¬†really- ¬†¬†¬†it ¬†felt ¬†wrong ¬†somehow, ¬†like ¬†cheating. ¬†She ¬†didn‚Äôt ¬†want ¬†to ¬†make ¬†herself ¬†mourn ¬†him. ¬†After ¬†all, ¬†she ¬†hadn‚Äôt ¬†known ¬†him. ¬†You ¬†couldn‚Äôt ¬†really ¬†make ¬†yourself ¬†mourn ¬†someone ¬†you ¬†hadn‚Äôt ¬†known.

Couldn’t  you?

‚ÄúYou ¬†shouldn‚Äôt ¬†have ¬†left ¬†me ¬†and ¬†Mother ¬†alone!‚ÄĚ ¬†she ¬†said, ¬†and ¬†there ¬†were ¬†actually ¬†tears ¬†in ¬†her ¬†eyes ¬†that ¬†she ¬†hadn‚Äôt ¬†had ¬†to ¬†conjure. ¬†She ¬†didn‚Äôt ¬†like ¬†it. ¬†It ¬†made ¬†people ¬†happy ¬†to ¬†know ¬†their ¬†loved ¬†ones ¬†would ¬†be ¬†missed, ¬†she ¬†was ¬†doing ¬†them ¬†a ¬†favor. ¬†And ¬†this ¬†wasn‚Äôt ¬†nearly ¬†as ¬†nice ¬†as ¬†she‚Äôd ¬†thought ¬†it ¬†would ¬†be. ¬†She ¬†stuffed ¬†down ¬†the ¬†thought ¬†that ¬†she ¬†had ¬†never ¬†once ¬†missed ¬†the ¬†people ¬†she‚Äôd ¬†mourned, ¬†with ¬†the ¬†exception ¬†of ¬†Lula ¬†a ¬†little ¬†bit- ¬†this ¬†wasn‚Äôt ¬†the ¬†time ¬†to ¬†think ¬†of ¬†such ¬†things. ¬†There ¬†were ¬†more ¬†tears ¬†coming ¬†to ¬†her ¬†eyes. ¬†This ¬†was ¬†awful. ¬†She ¬†turned ¬†to ¬†go, ¬†and ¬†the ¬†swallow ¬†was ¬†perched ¬†on ¬†the ¬†fence ¬†she ¬†would ¬†have ¬†to ¬†scale ¬†to ¬†get ¬†out ¬†of ¬†the ¬†graveyard. ¬†Was ¬†it ¬†looking ¬†at ¬†her? ¬†She ¬†was ¬†sure ¬†it ¬†was.

‚ÄúShoo! ¬†Get ¬†out!‚ÄĚ ¬†she ¬†yelled, ¬†and ¬†her ¬†voice ¬†was ¬†hoarse. ¬†She ¬†clambered ¬†up ¬†the ¬†fence ¬†with ¬†fingers ¬†that ¬†were ¬†almost ¬†blue ¬†with ¬†cold, ¬†and ¬†dropped ¬†to ¬†the ¬†ground ¬†on ¬†the ¬†other ¬†side ¬†with ¬†a ¬†painful ¬†jolt ¬†in ¬†her ¬†cold ¬†ankles. ¬†She ¬†stole ¬†one ¬†last ¬†glance ¬†at ¬†the ¬†grave. ¬†She ¬†hadn‚Äôt ¬†liked ¬†it ¬†but ¬†she‚Äôd ¬†done ¬†it. ¬†She‚Äôd ¬†stood ¬†at ¬†a ¬†real ¬†and ¬†proper ¬†grave ¬†of ¬†someone ¬†she‚Äôd ¬†had ¬†a ¬†duty ¬†to ¬†mourn. ¬†One ¬†hand ¬†threaded ¬†through ¬†the ¬†chain ¬†links ¬†and ¬†half ¬†turned ¬†away ¬†towards ¬†the ¬†alley, ¬†Dorothy ¬†looked ¬†back ¬†at ¬†the ¬†graveyard- ¬†at ¬†the ¬†headstones ¬†and ¬†the ¬†dried ¬†flowers ¬†and ¬†worn ¬†out ¬†teddy ¬†bear ¬†on ¬†the ¬†grave ¬†in ¬†the ¬†corner, ¬†and ¬†Dorothy ¬†thought ¬†about ¬†autumn, ¬†and ¬†she ¬†thought ¬†about ¬†death.

And  then  she  wondered  quite  suddenly  who  would  stand  by  her  grave,  and  what  they  might  say  to  her,  once  she  was  dead  and  in  the  ground.

Shaking  off  that  unpleasant  thought,  she  turned  and  marched  home,  any  lingering  remnants  of  the  epiphany  at  the  graveyard  dashed  away  by  the  bicyclist  that  nearly  ran  her  over  and  the  bustle  of  the  people  and  the  noise  of  the  street.  She  was  already  feeling  better.

Poll