It was long ago, and they are dead.
I never knew them, but I think about them.
The story left untold becomes a story
I can tell myself until it’s true.
I never knew them, but I think about them,
These grim ladies in black high-collared dresses.
I can tell myself until it’s true
That they’ve been laughing. The camera turns on them,
And they are grim: three ladies in black high-collared dresses,
Aunts posed beneath a catalpa tree.
They’ve been laughing. The camera turns on them
The weight of being seen forever like that—
Aunts posed beneath a catalpa tree,
Unloved and unremembered, three brown names,
The weight of being seen forever. Like that,
They fade. The catalpa dissolves,
Unloved and unremembered, a brown tree of names
No one can read, unraveling into the sky.
They fade, the catalpa dissolves,
A dark age overtakes them like sleep.
No one can read them. Unraveling into the sky
Like breath, their slender memory’s unwritten.
A dark age overtakes them. While they sleep
I will tell their story to myself,
All breath, all the memories unwritten,
All the names wrong, the dates mis-guessed.
This is the story I tell myself—
What does time matter to a story?
So the names are wrong, the dates mis-guessed.
The sun’s handprints among catalpa leaves
Are all the time that matters to this story
In which three women glower at a camera
Through sunlight handprinted by catalpa leaves,
A day on which anything might have happened
To these three who glower at the camera
Daring it to mistake them for the Fates.
On this day, anything might have happened.
All I know is that they stand glowering.
Daring the camera. Looking like the Fates
Who stare down their own unknowable future.
I know that the three of them stand glowering.
They cannot imagine that I will see them
Stare down their own unknowable future,
Where I stand, on the far side of the grave.
Do they imagine someone like me? Who will see us,
They might be wondering. Who will love us?
Who will know us on the far side of the grave?
Does the long loneliness look back at them?
Well might they wonder, Who will love us?
The relatives they visited are dead.
The long loneliness has looked back at them,
And in that moment I don’t know what they are doing,
Which relative, now dead, they are visiting,
Why they’ve gathered beneath the catalpa.
What, in that moment, have they stopped doing?
Saved from time, what are they thinking
While the white sun glares through the catalpa?
Though the story left untold becomes a story,
Time doesn’t care what they were thinking.
They are dead, and it was long ago.