Richard Cory’s Wake
The black stain of the priest
plumes across the room
like factory smokestack fumes,
his sleight of hand
on the dole for Requiem stipends
he spends on Jameson and Harp.
Battling summer sweat,
non-union cogs fidget in line,
watching the clock,
hungry for the crumbs
of the boss’s funeral feedbag,
their shabby suits resurrected,
smelling of moth balls
and barber talc.
As sticky-fingered kids trace
the carved image of St. Patrick
on the closed mahogany casket,
women curse the cleanliness
of his Better Homes and Gardens.
To assuage chronic jealousies,
they scuff their heels,
marring the glitter
of the mosaic marble floor.
Outside on the pavement,
dressed to kill,
the undertaker paces,
a pinch of tobacco in his clay,
even the most splendid of stars.
Edgar Allen Poe’s Grave
We stop at Edgar Allen Poe’s grave
so she can breast-feed the baby.
After casing the area, she unbuttons
her nursing bra. I light a cigarette,
the match struggling to hold a flame
in a stiff breeze carrying the smell
of stale piss. The baby cries.
Since I filed for divorce,
the baby has refused to suckle.
My wife stares at me like a christ
would a treacherous disciple. I pace
the tombstone, my cigarette lousy
with ashes. Against the marker
I crush the smoke, flick the butt
at a decayed arrangement
placed in memory of the dead.
Beneath my feet a short story,
interred too soon, claws
its way through the dirt.
Along the West Fork, wildflowers crouch
like children playing hide-and-seek.
I find them, Bluets, Clover, Oxeye Daisies,
Larkspur, Buttercups, Spring Beauties,
coax them out of concealment,
their brilliance reflected in the passing waters.
Stooping, I run my fingers along stems,
snapping necks easy as a camera shutter
capturing the moment like a fossil
imprint of a leaf, each impression
like the fine lines of your palms
I kiss as they bloom,
my life in your hands
like a bunch of wildflowers.