Calling Out the Dead

I was a sound sleeper in my teens. My mother’s voice
used to break through my dreams, waking me for school with news.
Hey, that funny guy from Saturday Night Live died,

what’s his name, Ackroyd? Or, They shot one of the Beatles.
I’m trying to hear her tone again, trying out instruments:
cello? flute? Clarinet, I think, if a clarinet can drawl Pam

into three syllables. It’s been seven years since she died,
seven minutes after midnight on the day after
my husband’s birthday in Aunt Mildred’s living room

over the mountain from the creek where Annie Dillard wrote
The whole world sparks and flames. All of us there,
praying, singing, joking. As my perfect nurse cousin Trena

checked her vitals, I sat by the borrowed bed, above my mother’s
still head, a plate of casserole on my lap. We listened
to the spaces between breaths. After, as Trena retold it,

she always included Pam was right there,
eating macaroni and cheese. Did I sleep that night?
After the undertaker was summoned from down the road,

after he and his son and the gurney had gone, I lay
on Aunt Mildred’s hard-pillowed sofa, which still
smelled of the Grand Home Furnishings store, next to

the empty metal bed, its pale sheets gone. The whole world
sparks and flames: a bright jitter that nudged me to rise
the next morning, with no broadside to rouse me.

Pamela Murray Winters lives with her husband and various animals in a house on the Chesapeake Bay. Her poems have appeared in The Gettysburg Review, Gargoyle, Beltway Poetry, Fledgling Rag, and other publications.

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