[To wake & wind up standing...]


To wake & wind up standing

in the same room, hands held

in a locket for his picture, together

with the corpse that loomed

washed & nameless

on the table. To know


by the pair of coins & the pile

of marigolds, the Sunday clothes

& comb glowing atop the orange tin,

we were locked in with an obvious order.


Cornucopia in a coffin: garlands,

lacquered crosses, the spur-blade

of a rooster, pomegranates still ripening,

bottles of añejo the ecstatic kind.


Everything need to improvise

our first time: shears & shapers,

shadow kits & tweezers,

beetle-theaters of jewelry.


Too young, but we knew sand

as the sound of trying to feed

a dead man's arms to his sleeves,

so we used the scissors

to bottom-out his clothes.


You wrapped the tie around

your neck first, imagined his preference.

I walked every button

thru its eyelet, like a waiter

carrying a platter up

to the last flight, where we closed

the wings of his collar & served

the freshly minted knot

to his Adam's apple.


By then we knew laying one coin

heads & the other tails on the scales

of his eyelids kept them bribed,

thru the darkness, between the thighs

of Death forever watching

supper arrive on her table.   


Hundreds of hired mourners outside, restless

trombones & shovels, pallbearers pacing

& what must be his widow beside

the flugelhorns. Mother with her granddaughters

probably, tired of the sun– ex-lovers

in their blacks.


Flowers tucked like dawn around

his shoulders. Lapis rosary lighting

the fingers of his left hand, & cradled under

his right arm– gold plated cuerno de chivo.


Only then did we feel bold enough

to knock from the inside out & lie;

we were happy with our work

& yes we were done.


(originally appeared in Cincinnatti Review 11.2)