choice or blood wait on a shelf. Most were
sprinkled over water or under roots,
a pinch held back to mingle with her own
Missouri grit when the time comes.
She watched her father drape his arm
around shaking shoulders of strangers,
avert his eyes at delicate moments,
hold steady when the waves subsided.
More than honor and custom, she learned
to decorate graves on holidays, search for kin
in country towns with overgrown mounds,
to do what must be done.
She will wait by your bedside until
dawn breaks, until the last ragged
breath whispers yes,
yes, I am ready.