First Night of No Billy [poem] by Molly Fisk

Before you find out, eat breakfast: yolks over-easy breaking gold,
absorbing the scant salt you give yourself, egg whites shiny beside
potatoes, plate garnished by peach slices, rosemary, all of it

fragrant with summer. Afterward, not in a hurry since the dead
don’t ask us to hurry, carrying cinnamon rolls to the house
as sweetness is known to alleviate shock and grief, and of course

they’ve forgotten their hunger. They’re just breathing and crying, hugging,
checking once more to make sure he’s dead. He’s dead. He died around two
in the morning. His face quite still now, alabaster, cool, eye-lids

closed over all he loved, remembered, required, laughed at, longed for.
His secrets with him. The last chapter written, the book’s cover closed.
Your hand on his forehead like brushing against some tumbled granite

beside a well-worn path to the river. You don’t go to the river,
though, you kiss them and drive home to finish the dishes. Warm water,
soap. You knew him a long time, but he wasn’t much of a talker.

A worker. A work-horse. Someone who slept so hard he may never
have dreamed, but you didn’t talk about dreaming. You baked him cookies
when he fixed your gate, fished the pearl earring out of the plumbing that

time a cat knocked it in. Where did the day go? Where do the dead go?
It’s dark now, tonight, the first night since he was born of no Billy.
The crickets are loud, and cars always whirr by too fast on the road.

Is he this bullfrog? That owl? When a saw sings into the wood
to shape a new door or a table, is that his voice? Is he smoke?
Is he stars?

 

Image of 1930s Switchboard Operator

Image by USFWS

Molly Fisk is a poet, essayist, and life coach living in the Sierra foothills of Northern California. She’s won grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Arts Council, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Her most recent book of poems is The More Difficult Beauty (2010).