when my parents died on the
very same day, but 365-days apart,
it colored us all surprised.
the day we buried my father
was blue, yellow, and green.
the day we buried my mother
was dove, then Payne’s gray.
both days held a raw-umber pall
over dark aching blue. my sister and
i wore matching throats and upper-chests
of scumbled baby pink and fuchsia.
our eyes and memories hovered
between rosy-mauve and ocean-deep
while my older brothers all sported ears
of crimson and the same shade, but
muted eye-rims. dad’s casket was lined
with a cantaloupe-orange satin. mom’s
had silk of when-she-was-young
baby blue. the word-offerings of
comfort came in unpolished rose-gold
and silver—either too-bright or
tarnished and by each day’s
end, all ran the spectrum from ecru
to parchment to eggshell. the tears i
shed for dad were aqua blue and
bright—for mom, they held a green cast of
broken-ocean waves on dismal sand—both
streaked with various transparencies
of midnight-black lines. burgundy
and matte-coal clothed my paled
flesh. lavender fingernails clasped
shaking warm-skinned wishes while
through collapsing green veins
i felt sludge and alizarin-colored
blood pumping. my voice glinted
gilded copper, then nondescript, opaque
clouds, then mottled sepia. the sun’s yellow-
white light pierced blue-lipped skies
when they lowered dad into burnt-
umber earth. mom’s casket was
her steel-grey hair and dad’s
too-harsh sunlight ran beams of cold
streaks she liked to call bright-
silver instead of white. pink, brown,
peach, and sea-foam umbrellas
caught floating opalescent snowflakes
before they could land, then blend,
onto human- colored crowns.
other than this palette, my parent’s
descent into the fathomless black
was and is the culmination of every color
on every wheel and whether
all-white or all-black
the memories i have of each final day’s
satin or gloss or matte finish flows
across every hue and shade
like a canvas
inundated with brush-
made by the old masters
of all time.
About the Poet
J.A. Carter-Winward is an award-winning poet, literary novelist, playwright, musician, filmmaker, and visual artist. Author of 11 books, her work appears in anthologies by Write Bloody Publishing (We Will Be Shelter-2014), HSTQ, (HST: Poetry-2019) Vita Brevis (Pain & Renewal-2020), and other online and print journals. She’s also a contributing writer for Mad in America: Science, Psychiatry and Social Justice.
For the first time in nearly five years, Vita Brevis is closed for submission. Read the full story here.