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Summer/Fall 2018

Ms. Esther at a Funeral


by Jeanne Julian


His church stands beside the country club.
Neither wants my kind. Par for the course,
despite professions of “acceptance,” if not
welcome, bonhomie. I know. Fifty years ago,
they didn’t want me in their schools.
I went somewhere else for two degrees,
then came back and taught their children.
But the father of a friend—well, more colleague
than friend, but let’s not parse too harshly;
he showed me kindness, during our careers—
passed, and you put on your lipstick and your hat
and just go, even to a mass said in a sanctuary
to my eye a ski chalet on steroids, not a chapel.
The creamy-cassocked priest, crossing himself
in a gesture like the t in white, allowed as how
the stainless hanky on the urn recalled
the old man’s baptism, origin of a long path
toward heavenly rejuvenation. He said,
“in grief we stand shoulder to shoulder”—
the very reason I am here, amid
the toneless homilies and quavering hymns.
I look around, wonder, in this election year,
which of the singers had driven in the stakes
roadside, displaying cardboard signs:
“Save America Vote Republican.”
As if we’re doomed by any other stance.
Wonder who had maligned the president
(the first ever whose origins echo mine)
in last week’s letter to the editor. Wonder
how many are content with those new laws
suppressing our community—can’t vote early,
or lacking the right I.D…..

But now we gather under the canvas canopy,
beside the stark waiting hole, and so I pry
myself from mistrust, look up, give myself a role: one
among the dark whorl of starlings defined, defiantly,
against gray, until the shifting clouds part, revealing
an inverse of that cold grave, a clear portal
of a gentle blue, shaped kind of like the o in hope.


[More poems by Jeanne Julian]

[Check out Jeanne Julian’s back porch wisdom]

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