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Jean C. Howard

FUNERAL IN SHIRLEY’S BACKYARD

Tired Tree by Aleksandr Glukhov

This puppy
Curled like a lock
Of snipped-off newborn hair
Tiny paws peeking over
The edge
Nestled in a jewelry box

Perched upon the patio table
Its dusty deck
Canopied by the ancient limbs
Of cottonwood tree

Becomes the gem
The earth accepts
Precious morsel at its lips
Split apart by Kelly’s shovel.

As August huffs
Its heavy breath
Of weary sun
And leaves
Flat-panting
A breeze picks up
The soil’s raw scent.

Shirley drops hibiscus.
Its flesh descends
Splashing white
Onto darkness.

Nina holds the rope swing still
Plus peppermint roses drawing
Life from the glass well
Whose vase descends
From the kitchen cabinet

And summer hums
Its simple song
Of earth and flower
Birth and death
Of tiny leaping in the lawn
Quiet crossing

Into stone
As Shirley shovels
The first dry soil
That drapes the box
With audible love

Then I lift up the next one.

 

About the writer:
Born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, performance poet Jean Howard resided in Chicago from 1979 to 1999. She has since returned to Salt Lake City. A participant in the original development of the nationally acclaimed “Poetry Slam” at the Green Mill, she has been awarded two grants for the publication of her book, Dancing in Your Mother’s Skin (Tia Chucha Press), a collaborative work with photographer Alice Hargrave. She organized the annual National Poetry Video Festival for seven years with her own award-winning video poems airing on PBS, cable TV, and festivals around the nation.

Image: Tired Tree by Aleksandr Glukhov (1974- contemporary). Gouache on cardboard. 30 x 21 inches. 1992. By free license.

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