Two Poems by Meghan O'Rourke



Make a list of what
no one could take from you


OK, it's a short list


Your mother died
and they took away her hands

she became a skeleton
in a fire
then a skeleton

in a tall black box
your father bought
because he didn't want an urn
(she wouldn't have liked it)

but who really wants
graves or urns?


It is winter and the only green
is pine —


— I drink wine
and call up an old boyfriend
the sun in La Jolla
is going to eclipse the moon

then he doesn't call

or he calls, but I
don't —


You go with her
to get an IUD
while her insurance lasts
Oh, she says,
lifting her arm:
it pinches.


It's hard to see lessons here

years of gaudy in the grass,
lemonade and orange crush,

your mother's voice, the grass
curling and not
going under,
                         not yet.

You listen to Peaches.
A friend suggests wine, sex,
Adderall, a road trip  
anything that takes the pain away.


Are these scraps an accounting?

       : The joke your father used to tell
about the hippie motorcyclist
with the suspenders

caught in the door of the yuppie's Alfa Romeo
       flung forward past the car
the yuppie can't stand it,
                                    it doesn't make sense,
he's got the engine.

But that's how it is,

each of us passing
or being flung past

(despite our provisions)

provisionless we pass

a little capacious a little blotto a little July
fizzy and sour along the way.


And I am lucky,
I was happy once
I think. I walked into

heated houses and held my
pink drink up. In my hands
it lanterned

Horses passed our windows,

one pinto chasing the other

My mother
now here,


With pines my legs sticky

The list is short
but deep;

I mean, beauty, but pain.


What I am getting at:

at the center of a life
there must be a relinquishment,

a mercy to the self:

Holding the body in its last minutes

teaches you what exactly
               if not that

Poem (Problem)

I kept trying to put the pain into a poem,
but all I did was write the word "pain"
in my notebook, over and over.