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for MC

Under a blue tent with someone else’s name on it
Sweeney and her name was not Sweeney
We saw a marble urn, your mother was in it
Let the baby rest a flower on her ledge
A white rose on a square urn
—Wedge to eternity—
While we rose and sank with words of psalms

What is eternity—is it now or is it ever?
It is why she burned her beautiful body
and left it in a marble box
Beautiful wrinkles she powdered over
Beautiful white hair dyed yellow
All ash and gray flecks
Of irreducible bone
Though she would not let us see the ash
In her marble box

Oh my nearly blind one, her daughter
You couldn’t read the brass plaque
I had to whisper her name in your ear
Your only mother’s only name

What is eternity—it is now and it is ever
The baby danced in her funeral dress
The rest of us read the old psalm
Never once she let herself be a sheep
So why speak now of a shepherd?

Here in the flat of death a cold morning
We walk through the shadow of the blue tent
To meet what’s left of winter
A smaller sun concealed behind a cloud

The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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