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CNF: O Funeral

by Marina Carreira

Instead I hung up the phone, took more than the directed amount of Xanax, pulled the cork from the 9 Crimes bottle and watched/not watched Good Morning America in ripped, college sweatpants. Mourning from a living room hazy with July light.

Even if I wanted to go there, I couldn’t. The kids don’t have up-to-date passports, my sociopath boss won’t give me off with such short notice, what do I even pack, and who am I kidding, no one has flight-to-Portugal money. All I can do is I imagine myself there.

The capela is dim and the yellow of old notebooks. Sometimes yellower give the flicker of the candles around the alter. There are gorgeous little bushels of orange and purple and white wildflowers strategically placed around his coffin so that it looks like he is somewhere in the serras of Algarve and not one of the dusty, olive-treed villages of Batalha. He is thinner than I ever remember, skin taut with the weight of ninety long years. He is wearing his favorite navy suit. His only navy suit. I wait for him to whistle but he doesn’t.

Avó is there, trademark smirk in tow, playing the pobre viuva. My mother and sister and aunt and cousins are dabbing at their eyes, wiping under their noses, turning their cheeks side to side in receipt of kisses from twice-removed relatives. The men in the chapel hold their arms in that way where palms cup elbows, murmur quietly about who else has passed this year. Kids fidget like squirrels when the battery on their mother’s cellphone dies. I wait for Avô to whistle.

Even if I went there, he wouldn’t have known. People with Alzheimer’s won’t remember the big you, only the little you. The you with melty vanilla ice cream dripping from your mouth. The you downstairs in the basement studiously watching him press suits. The you in the fetal position inside the orange rock fortress. You with the scratchy mustard-colored covers up to your neck. You in the Flamenco Dancer Halloween costume he made. You singing “Like A Virgin” into the mirror. You at 11 riding your bike without training wheels. You walking to school with a terrible haircut, even more terrible attitude. The You Then that never became the You Now. Can ghosts get Alzheimer’s?

Augusto da Trindade Ribeiro was born during a frigid winter inside a dark stone house in 1925. He was the first boy in his village to own a bicycle. He married my grandmother Maria, who made his life hell on earth. He was an immigrant tailor who lived the American Dream before retiring to Fanhais, in a pretty white house with royal blue accents. He waited at the rusty gate for me every summer. He died on a gurney in a hospice overlooking the ocean with the biggest waves in the world, never knowing his grown granddaughter: the poet, the mother, the addict.

Funeral over, I open another bottle of red and change the channel. The woman on the screen feels spirits, like really really and sometimes I even talk wid ‘em. I wonder if they understand her Long Island accent. I wonder if they get Alzheimer’s too.

Marina Carreira is a queer Luso-American writer and artist from Newark, NJ who holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Rutgers University, NJ. Marina’s chapbook, “I Sing to That Bird Knowing It Won’t Sing Back” was published May 2017 by Finishing Line Press. Her first full-length poetry collection, “Save the Bathwater”, is out now and published by Get Fresh Books. Her work is featured in Paterson Literary Review, The Acentos Review, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Hinchas de Poesia, Luna Luna, among others. Marina has showcased her art in group exhibitions and festivals at the Ironbound Cultural Center’s Shiman Gallery, Hahne & Co., Gallery 211, and Living Incubator Performance Space {LIPS} in the Gateway Project Spaces in Newark, NJ. She is founding member of “Brick City Collective”, a Newark-based multicultural, multimedia group working for social change through the arts.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “O Funeral”?

I wrote “Funeral” during the core grieving, but the editing of the work only occurred about a year later, when I was sober and in a place of acceptance. The revision process didn’t necessarily bring me to that dark place again, but it did hit me with waves of sadness and saudade, not only because I was reminded of my grandfather’s death and the inability to “say goodbye” and attend his funeral, but for the broken and hopeless person I was (for a long time and especially) during that time. To say that this piece is a testament to the healing properties of writing feels like an understatement.

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