I'm stood alert in purgatory. A white expansive space, I look to the Virgin Mary and a childlike Christ. I'm stood alert in a white expansive space, pensive and hovering, hands gently clasped at my waist. Aptly, I'm dressed in all black. I'm at work. It's one thing to grieve pragmatically, warm cup of tea in hand, eyes resting on a thread of sunlight through slanted window blinds. It is another to do so in black uniform, a vast and echoing landscape, with Saint Emidius overseeing my every move. I wonder what my Dad would say if he were to know I spend my days gazing into Christ's eyes? Adorned with fruit, bejewelled with lilies and carnations. White lilies and carnations atop a warm wooden coffin. I hover and hesitate, I daren't touch something so delicate. I stand silently, a crowd of onlookers anticipating my leave, exit stage right. Outstretched before me, lid closed, my Father. I rest my hand and do not think of Christ. I think of nothing and feel nothing, and know that the Man in there is no longer a Man let alone my Father, but a body. Dust and soot and stone. Skin breaking apart like paper, wiry silver tufts slipping softly from the fruit. I find it hard to quantify the afterlife. In the Dying Room, white walls marred by touch, my Dad lays before me. No oak, no birch, no pine. No crow at my window, no feather at my doorstep. Breath held, the bars of the bed are caught below my ribcage and push me away. Mint green blankets are freshly washed and folded, a sheet of paper is tacked to the wall reading his name. He died an hour ago. Hands clasped, as mine are in the gallery. Speckles of dried blood dotted beneath his right eye. Eyes closed. My Brother opens his lids and I wince, but it's the most beautiful shade of blue I've ever seen. Pearlescent. His eyes are vacant and I cannot place that he is simultaneously here and not here. My Mom enters this scene first, before all of this, and cannot stop kissing him. His cheek, his lips, his forehead, his hands. Her head bowed in agony and resting on his chest. "I just feel relief", I say, which I now wholly regret. By relief, I'd like to clarify only relief from physical pain. There is no relief. I look to the Virgin Mary and wonder, "Is this it?" She does not answer me. I don't think anyone can ever answer me. I envy the faithful, I wish with the entire sum of my heart and bones that I could believe - that I could, too, voyage through purgatory to the other side. Instead, I look to the Virgin Mary and a childlike Christ in hope of something true. I hope to find him waiting for me.

Christ

2022

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