“Don’t you have anything better to think about?” Michelle’s sister might ask.
I don’t either. So let’s explore together what we remember, what we wish had been different, and let’s forgive ourselves for not knowing then what we know now. This poem reminds me of all those people who are never sure that they belong in this world and who have to make up a place for themselves every day.
Madeline and the Pig
When the pig died on my uncle’s farm,
Madeline hauled it out, lay a sheet over it,
and held a funeral,
the mourners comprising two sisters
and any cousins who could be made to sit
on the ground in rows—Madeline’s best semblance
to pews—and she conducted the service
with Mass Latin half-sung.
I was barred from the service for grievances
years older than the pig ever reached,
French Canadian grievances that flowered in me
and were, no doubt, reaching blossom in a cousin
or two seated in the flock, cousins
that I could never, ever ask:
How is it with you in your family? Are you
being treated badly? Should we run away?
Are we really, really dirt?
but I knew of the service from talk and smiles
and laughter of the aunts who thought it cute.
Smitten by not being included, I arranged
my own funeral of a butterfly
that may have been still moving or maybe not,
and summoned my great-aunt out of chores to watch
as I dug up and resurrected the butterfly whose wings
would flutter when exposed to the light
but I couldn’t find the burial spot, and great-aunt Catherine
muttered and twisted her apron about.
Years later, I want to ask Madeline:
What was it about that pig? Why did you do that funeral?
and have her reply:
What are you talking about? I never did that!
That’s crazy! or:
What’s the matter with you?
Don’t you have anything better to be thinking about?
so I don’t and I’m left with the liberty of embellishing
this pig tale if I chose–
maybe Mass Latin wasn’t used
but I consider it appropriate for my serious sister
who attended daily Mass, and had, most likely,
on that day, her hair in two long dark braids
with tendrils either fluttering in the breeze or plastered
to her sunny forehead.
–by Michelle in the Trees.