For Emma, also
Half-hidden in the copse on the verge of the churchyard, a tombstone
with the words Also Emma. A stillbirth? Adopted daughter? Pet name
for the last child in a family of nine where there were not even enough tears
to go around? I stopped at the church beside the river to mark the last time
I walked the cemetery with my father, mending and healing in my dead
mother’s city, no more time left for blame. Now he rests in our guest room
forever the ladies’ man, his wooden urn a base for The Nude on the Dartmouth
Ferry. In the south-facing window my mother cradles our oxalis triangularis.
I should scatter their ashes, root life and death in earth, in place, but something
holds me, an only child thirsty for water and sun, holds me back and also lets me go.
The three-pointed leaves of her plant unpack late morning light. He shifts
and settles the nude, nameless woman on the deck of the ferry.
by Anne Archer
Editor’s Note: This ekphrastic poem doesn’t just reference one painting; it uses several startlingly clear images (tombstone, wooden urn, etc.) to create a narrative of empathy, sorrow, and understanding.
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