We Feed the Living
The week my father died I dug
through the freezer and pantry
in my parents’ house, pulled out
the ingredients to make my sister’s
favorite dessert. As I stirred and baked
I thought of my father, his body small
but his hands swollen with edema.
As the peanut butter cookies cooled
on the counter, the sweet smell filled
the house, I stared out the window
at the garden my father planted months
ago. The day before my sister and I tore
it up, the plants done with their offerings.
I tossed the rotten tomatoes and overgrown
cucumbers into the trees for the birds
to find. When we brought my father home
the house was filled with food from friends
and neighbors—this is what we do for death,
we feed the living. After my father took
his last breath we pulled the sheet tight
around him, a pale-yellow cotton shroud.
Then we sat in the kitchen, mindlessly eating
the food that covered every surface, our bellies
filling with grief and the angel food cake
I baked the day before—my father’s favorite.
Courtney LeBlanc is the author of the full-length collections Exquisite Bloody, Beating Heart (Riot in Your Throat) and Beautiful & Full of Monsters (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press). She is a winner of the Jack McCarthy book prize and her next collection of poetry will be published by Write Bloody in spring 2023. She is a Virginia Center for Creative Arts fellow (2022) and the founder and editor-in-chief of Riot in Your Throat, an independent poetry press. She loves nail polish, tattoos, and a soy latte each morning. Read her publications on her blog: wordperv.com. Follow her on Twitter @wordperv, and IG: @wordperv79.