for Jan Holman
(July 16, 1965 – February 18, 1989)

Practice doesn’t make perfect.
I wash my bowls, lie in the bed I make.
Sit up again, trying like hell
to make my back straight.

Spinning around and around,
trying to catch a monkey.
If only I could remember
the proper mudra, the one for mercy.

I admit I am still grieving.

I looked for clues of you in pictures of our childhood,
beckoned you into my dreams, but you never came.
I waited at the graveyard for anything to happen,
damned you and God both, trying to get a rise.

I learned the semaphore alphabet and waved out to sea,
emptied every bottle that bobbed my way.
I am still waiting for an answer,
a sign, or a secret password.

I admit I am still a believer: sucker.

Our father was drilling offshore when the call came.
Dolphins followed him through the thick Gulf water.
When the hard land started, seagulls took over,
flying in the shape of spades. He called your name.

These are useless gestures. Bag of bones,
I’ll see you when I see you.
Rotten, stinking, broken,
your hair and fingernails still growing.

I admit I am still living.

Shannon Holman, Oberlin, Ohio, 1993