angel hill cemetery by lillo way

Two Poems by Lillo Way

Angel Hill Cemetery
Purple bells touch the names
of people I sprang from but never
knew. Hyacinth against stone
markers, fragrance strong enough
to make a five-year-old swoon.
I wonder if the buried can feel
Aunt Reba’s muscled love,
her swollen knees pressing
against their chests
as she works the trowel.
Can they see the dimming sun,
taste the light rain, smell
the intense death
of these grave flowers
brown by next Sunday?
When Easter falls in March the earth
is stubborn-hard under her fingers.
But when it arrives overdue
in late April, it yields soft – reeking
of life and afterlife in one breath.
Reba bows before their names –
mother, father, uncle, brother.
Some church-god may have escorted
them here, but if there’s any god today,
it’s Reba, broke-kneed, benevolent.
She carried the plants delicately
up Angel Hill Road, cradling them
in her arms. But on the way back down,
she lets me hold the empty brick pots,
her gardening gloves folded damp inside.
She watches as my fingers slide
along the brown curds clinging
to the terracotta. She watches
as I hold the dirt to my nostrils,
then place it on my tongue.
She says nothing as I swallow,
nothing as I swipe
four dun fingers across the chest
of my lavender Easter dress.
We were happy here once
Rats crooned to our footsteps
golden taxis yelped sharp
through the humid air and sirens
ran in the storm drains.
We rambled our reckless ways
through the long park
its shadowed brambles
its herons lording by a pond.
Anonymous in the museums
dauntless in watercolor classrooms
singing through the subway cars
we were famed among pigeons.
Night after night as the sun fell into the river
we played under the white marquees
dancing slick with sweat in the streets
rapt in the reek of garbage trucks.
We returned to our basement homes
in the scent of bread baked in the dark
while the moon that is never seen rising
flew heedless above the skyscrapers.
Untroubled in our blue-music nights
we slept through our heydays in the bloom
of twirling dreams and woke
to the ozone of a hot pavement hosed down.
We gleamed through the gay village
its starless nights born again and again
traffic lights oiling in the wet streets
red as fire green as grass.
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Lillo Way’s “Dubious Moon” won the Hudson Valley Writers Center’s Slapering Hol Chapbook Contest. Her poem, “Offering,” won the E.E. Cummings Award from New England Poetry Club, and “Appropriation” was awarded a Florida Review Editors” Prize. Her writing has appeared in RHINO, New Letters, Poet Lore, North American Review, Tampa Review, Louisville Review, Madison Review, Poetry East, among others. Way has received grants from the NEA, NY State Council on the Arts, and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation for her choreographic work involving poetry. Her collection, “Lend Me Your Wings,” is forthcoming, May 2021.