[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)