After School, 36X48, John Brosio
The Saddest Thing
The saddest thing I’ve ever seen was a child’s tiara resting
on a weather-worn tombstone. The afternoons
when it would rain I’d make my way to the cemetery
just to see how it faired among the dappled leaves
and windblown things of winter.
I found myself remembering her name
during conversations with other women. They’d mention
their children and I’d think of that little girl and the way
a shimmering crown stayed affixed without the use of pins,
how even the rainiest day couldn’t remove an arc
of light from above her head, her row of stars embedded
where I imagined once, the softest flaxen hair.
The saddest thing I’ve ever seen was the look on someone’s
face when they knew I was going to report bad news.
The way they turned this way and that hoping I wouldn’t
care about the hollowness in their eyes, as if I expected
something thoughtful to ricochet back from them to me,
propelling us both to a better place. There’s a kind
of arrogance in saying it’s going to be fine, or maybe
an impassive grace.
I’ve left a penny in one spot a few hours at a time hoping
I’d return to find it. A good omen if so, proving chance can be
planned wherever you go.
I keep a buggy full of dolls beside my fax machine
though the wheels have lost their spin, a small
pram that can’t be moved carrying porcelain
babies, each with a bow under her chin
who never weep despite the lockdown on a bed of blue. “Don’t cry”
they say, bonnets all tied, tiny darlings from years gone by.
The saddest thing I’ve ever seen was the way those dolls stared
when I ignored their unblinking eyes. Don’t cry, they’d say
with hair long mussed, to the sound of a letterpress disrupting
Don’t cry, they’d say with no one
to hold them, wearing tattered clothes from their bedded cave.
Don’t cry, they’d say when that tiara fell, one January
morning, beside my mother’s grave.
Carol Lynn Stevenson Grellas