The Final Return by Molly Saty
Once I knew this whole town,
the people, the parks, the shortcuts.
I was here before streetlights…
today, I hardly found the church.
Inside, a pale boy hands out cards.
Stiff words I’ll have to read later.
The pews have shrunk, the wood paled,
the minister reads poems, the survivors names rhyme.
I uncross my legs. I’m wearing too much leather.
I see old friends, but when our eyes meet
theirs are tired from milkings.
They smile polite like strangers.
Would the corpse know me now—
or would his eyes stay dead like the rest?
If I stood and called my name
they’d remember…skinny-dipping in the reeds,
blowing dreams through hollow grasses.
At the cemetery…oaks always old, are dying.
Twisted roots heave the ground.
As teens we came on purpose—
saddle shoes scraping gravel in “Rag Mop” time,
doors flung wide on beat up Chevies. Voices shrill
sang songs of love and war…before we’d known either.
But no one would grab me now—
swing my feet over tombstones.
Their arms are brittle, their bodies heavy,
bulky in coarse coats.
They didn’t suspect then…I’d return one day,
like an alien gravedigger
and bury them all in the same grave.
(2006 AZ State Poetry Contest $100 Legacy Award)