Silent Words

by Jodi C. Williams

Satin in creamy waves falls downward,
hovers just above the floor, hiding wheels and
the collapsible stand the walnut coffin is laid on.

I feign aloofness, lean like collapsed cardboard
against the wall, snippets of words from
quiet conversations flit like fireflies appearing,
then fading into the background. A laugh
snorting out of my Aunt Shirley is a belch against
the moment, the death that brings us together.

But I’m not here. I’m remembering your arm
hanging over a Farmall Super A on a hot Summer day,
a Schaefer rocking slightly on the seat as you push
your weight on its rusty frame to stand. You
tolerate my curiosity about carburetors, belts,
and bolts for the tractor. You said I bugged you
with more questions than “an ear of corn has kernels.”
Acknowledged by only silence, no muttered
hellos, just a nod or a glance, I never had your
words, only moments a child folds into her mind;
helping you pull a dead calf with a come-a-long
from its bellowing mother, discarding its
limp body in a corner for burying later.

Only once I heard you say my name, and I lay
awake all night overcome by the sound of it in your
voice, as if when you breathed it, I finally existed.

Resuscitated by the smell of my aunt’s perfume
I look at you from a distance, still, silent,
surrounded by the creamy silk of the coffin
and then follow my aunt to stand beside you.
I hover looking at your Farmer’s face and exhale the
the word Grampa with a slight nod as if saying your
name out loud could breathe you back into existence.