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A Kind of Restoration

ISSUE:  Winter 2007
It is a world of words to the end of it . . .
—Wallace Stevens

In eulogies, children bemoan what they wish
they’d said to parents, before loss

left them, like parrots, with vocabularies
that couldn’t contain enough words to know

what to say to the mayor who wants to
write the proclamation that makes it all

come out right in the end. The local
butcher—despite the persistent odor of

blood and a murmur over his sore left shoulder
speaking of the ecstasy of cutting flesh

loose from bone and serving it up, wrapped
perfect in white paper—doesn’t deal

in pain, a dull memory by the time
he sees the slabs of meat. Blood on his hands

is easy enough to remove; he goes home
to the hairdresser and rubs her warm scalp

all night with immaculate hands and doesn’t
confuse that warm, grayish flesh for anything

he might be asked to cut into chops or loins.
Parrots squawk through her dreams, perfect

alignments of feathers trying to sign her
name in dark air. Often, the mayor

shows up, naked, a fiery parrot
perched on his left shoulder that whispers

sweet nothings while digging into the skin
it clings to. She hangs on every word

this naked parrot of a man says. You are
all the world needs, the parrot chants,

and the hairdresser wants to ruffle up
those tail feathers like no one’s business.

Down at the end of this cul-de-sac,
where the one street sign’s been missing

for years, the fence around the cemetery
rusts the color of what the dead say

must be flowers. Only something living
and fragrant could form such brilliance,

they say. Loss, it has no such passion.
Words, they say, can’t contain the sorrow

memory makes room for under the earth.
Children often make out the dead moving

through bedrooms at night, trying to touch
anything. The rooms were theirs, the past

not a place but the loss of all places.
In a corner office down some dim hall

in some musty, crumbling city building,
the Registry of Everything Lost is kept

up to date by a shriveled employee
not paid in years. His spectacles, scratched

with what could be ancient signatures,
blur the words, but his trembling hand is

sure what it writes down. It’s not like he has to
remember any of this. Is forgetting

what’s been lost another loss, or is it more
like a double negative, so that amnesia

is a kind of restoration? The mayor
declares a Day of Forgetting, makes it

official, a way to celebrate what’s been
lost. Concession stands line Main Street,

one good hawker each, and games are set up
despite the threats of weather. Parrots

entertain passersby with impressions of
well-known city officials blurting out

words they’d never utter. Will everyone
join in the feverish celebration, or will they

just go about business as usual and wonder
what all the banners are for and where

that incessant music is coming from?
May children romp through the park

with plastic horns to their lips and sparklers
burning in their small fists, celebrating

everything their parents have forgotten.
May the dead cheer the sputtering bits of light

riding tiny hands from one end of one world
to another. May the light, dimming,

they say, be sacred, the squawking of parrots
a vespers drifting down over our bodies.


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