Agatha by Michael Schmidt

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AGATHA

What is it like in heaven, Agatha?
I see you in those tight scuffed shoes, now dangling
Not over the playground wall (and your sharp knees
And the frayed serge skirt of your school uniform)
But off a black cloud hard against the blue.
They swing to and fro, to and fro, what can you see
So high above my head, and the tree and the hill?

Am I down here, is your house, is your lame cat Dorcas
With whiskers on the left side of her face
And a broken tail? Can you see us, do you want to now,
Recalled by the school alarm, the smell of asphalt
Softening in the sun, and the effulgent haze,
Or is all this fading, faded out? If so, if your eyes
Have been able to uproot themselves from us,
Do they feed on the entire firmament, is it blue,
And is this as though it never had been at all,
Where I stand, where you used to sit on the wall?

What is it like, dear skinny Agatha
With your sharp ribs under a stained singlet, your flat
Chest with nipples stuck on like round plasters,
Like valves, like coppers on smooth sand?
(We walked on the level shore at Capistrano
Gathering dark sand dollars and coolie-hat shells;
First we were five and six, then six and seven.)
What is it like, your straight lips pursed, your grey eyes, Agatha,
Gazing at a sky you’re new in and new to?

And what’s it like, dear Agatha, without me?
What colour is your hair now, how do you wear it?
Still in braids, or piled up high, in a bun or pony tail?
I stand beneath your cloud and ask and ask.
I look up at your swinging soles and still I love you.
I want to tie your right shoe lace, touch your shin.

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