Duhamel & Seaton, "Death Is Not a Riddle"

Yes, And

When you bury your grandmother, you assume that’s the last you’ll see of her. But after Katrina, a man found his granny’s remains in the soggy cemetery, her coffin dug up by the storm surge.

Yes, and there is a name for the kind of grief that rises after a storm, but I have lost that too in the moon-faced flood.

Yes, and there is that fatigue—the funeral/hurricane preparations over—the emergency supplies gone, only the sad heart left.

Yes, and did you know the heart of the country lies in Kansas? Or South Dakota? If you add Puerto Rico, which is legally a territory, so you can’t really add it, but if you did, the heart would move a little to the left of Iowa—I’m not a cardiologist— weeping.

Yes, and in the Keys, house debris is piled two stories high with fridges, couches, and tables sticking out like a hideous sculpture. My colleague goes with his church on weekends to help, the slow slog of getting back to normal.

Yes, and Ballast Key [24°31’15”N81°57”49”W] was once the southernmost point in the contiguous states continuously above water. (You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle, Bruce Lee.)

Yes, and I made my own sandbags when K-Mart and Home Depot were sold out. I took the plastic pail and shovel I’d bought for the kids to the beach and filled up the legs of a pair of tights then cut out the crotch and knotted the top. Voila! Two sandbags. Not that they did much good.

Yes, and on the island of Barbuda the water became the island. So we drove into the mountains and the water became the mountains. The glaciers at 14,000 feet became the water and the light became the water too.

Yes, and my husband and I went on an Alaskan cruise, a failed attempt to save our marriage. We heard the glaciers crackle and then saw a chunk plunge into the sea. I thought it a sad metaphor for us since he melted away two months later. Of course, it’s not a metaphor at all.

Yes, and metaphors are only as effective as the things they compare. Alaska was on my bucket list until I started to die for real, then I thought: Alaska is Florida and Florida is Colorado, and Colorado is Illinois, but nothing is New York but New York.

Yes, and since I had to empty all my closets for the water restoration company, I have two buckets in the living room—a blue one holding Bob’s fishing pole and a white one holding a couple of mops. Buckets seem a strange metaphor for death, right?

Yes, and now the first snowstorm of the season (Aiden with an “e”), (not Desperately Seeking Susan’s Aidan with an “a”), follows the jetstream south over the peaks and dumps buckets on the butterflies and the bees. [40.1672° N, 105.1019° W]

Yes, and here in Florida we have the first green flag from the lifeguard hut since Irma. It’s safe to go in the water again, which is a lot closer than it used to be, so much erosion. My neighbor warned that the first step is like a slip and slide, a deep decline, then plop—the water was up to his waist.

Yes, and here in Colorado it’s back to 70° this week. Wingless snow angels, dripping roofs. I used to admire the hell out of weather, the one thing science couldn’t predict past 48 hours. I wonder if that’s still true.

Yes, and when we evacuated we intended to go to Naples but then Irma headed west so we went to Tampa but could only stay for one night as Tampa was being evacuated too. All the hotels in Atlanta were sold out by then, so we wound up in the Panhandle, a tiny patch of Florida that was spared.

Yes, and I stood watch on the shore of Colorado as my country drowned to the south and burned to the north. Stocks rose to the east and in the west there was more death in ten minutes than I could fathom. The cancer inside me longed to live. It wound around my spine like morning glories.

Yes, and my sister has started the tradition of bringing her grandchildren to the cemetery. Yesterday when she bought a sweatshirt for “dad,” meaning her son-in-law, little Nick thought she meant her dad, his great grandfather who died before he was born. He asked, “But is this sweatshirt big enough to fit over his wings?”

Yes, and the Day of the Dead celebration begins this Friday—three weeks of gigantes and sugar skulls and altars for the ancestors. It’s always been my favorite holiday, but especially now, in the middle of all this dear life.



Duhamel & Seaton

Denise Duhamel and Maureen Seaton have been collaborating since the early 1990s.  Sibling Rivalry Press published their CAPRICE (Collaborations: Collected, Uncollected, and New) in the fall of 2015.  Denise's most recent solo collection is Scald  (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017). Maureen's most recent solo collection is Fisher (Black Lawrence Press, 2018). Denise is a professor at Florida International University in Miami, and Maureen teaches poetry at the University of Miami, Florida.

ISSN 2472-338X
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