Poetry by Betsy Fogelman Tighe
His body comes alone
aboard a jet
with the luggage,
behind a gate.
There are fewer of us
to view his body
than there were to see our mother’s.
He’s wearing a Western shirt
and his Star Trek ring,
going with him: wire rim glasses.
I steal away his knife,
and when it’s found, later, at airport security
must go out and around to ship it in its petite
padded envelope straight back to me,
arriving five days later in the exact shape it left,
almost, as he did, believing with the Egyptians that death
is just a quiet interruption; meaning, resumption
for which the physical form must be preserved.
Cremation, our mother’s choice, he thought the final error.
To what will the vital organs, which the Egyptians
removed for 40 days, the length of time Moses purified,
preparing to receive
thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt
have no other God’s before me,
He claimed his tribe was Vulcan—
“a humanoid race that attempts to live
by reason and logic with no interference from emotion”
which almost describes him
except for a few sporadic and irrational attachments.
Instead of the last priestly ritual—
“the opening of the mouth—magically gives
the mummy the ability to speak and eat again”
a rabbi says for him, that his name, Malmed, derives
from the Hebrew for teacher, and what Andy
last taught us was about dignity and grace;
how he tried to soften it for all of us, maybe especially me,
a sponge on the bottom of the ocean of ill-fate,
one person after another drifting away.
The rabbi showed us Andy’s sign—
how to let go the grasp, unclench the fingers,
add the index finger to the thumb, press the others together.
Not goodbye, but command:
“live long and prosper.”
Betsy Fogelman Tighe has published widely in small literary magazines, including TriQuarterly 74, for which she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and Verseweavers, Number 14 and Fall 2015 for which she was awarded, respectively, third prize in the New Poets and first prize in the Dueling Judges category by the Oregon State Poetry Association. In 2016, she was a finalist for the Snake Nation Press Violet Reed Haas Poetry Prize. She had the opportunity to apprentice at American Poetry Review during her college years, and currently works as a teacher-librarian in Portland, OR, where she lives happily with one college-going child.