Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2021  Vol. 20  No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
 print preview

Reading Obituaries

Dee asks me to write my obituary, reasoning
she will have to do it if death gets me first.
What is the point? I ask, resisting questions
I have spent a life trying to answer. And who
will open his newspaper to say, Guess what?
That poet fellow in Louisiana? He left us.
I sit at the pond fall’s shined like a mirror
full of what is happening with no one’s notice.
Mallards zigzag, dying leaves drift, the faces
of the newly gone open my morning paper.
I read each memory of good days, a litany
of crows echoes from elms like old squadrons
calling their decorations, schools attended,
first marriages, and last. Can they teach me
what’s right to say in explanation of death?
No scars of love, no tortured spirit, no choice
that stabs year after year. Yet I see they loved
fishing, travel, the dog named Wife, the wife
named Dog, so I try to focus the wit of it all.
I grin at the news so many fought the good
fight, “livered hard, hoped, (sic) to see Jesus.”
Across the way a dog stops, pisses another’s
piss spot, sniffs the air, continues a journey.
The faces clench, ash already caked on mantels,
or clot like limbs just under the pond slick
where you might rub one in a fishing bateau
and wonder what happened. Or stare as I do
where someone slams a car door twice. Hard
life, Jesus, they had, weak words too stiff
to fit in the right and savory facts of a life.
I keep starting and restarting, aware of costs,
wanting a value list of the done and undone.
Should I quote? Scripture? Poets? Tales of
love’s triumph? At last I leave death alone,
I walk to the pond edge, to shivering water.
There’s always a bigmouth bass blending in
under clouds of minnows gathered like kin.
His gills are slow black fans, his mouth white
as the sky, and they dance into him like angels.
None, it seems, ever skid aside or come back.
Sometimes I watch until night stars take over,
until voices I love start laughing at stories
where Dee sits waiting with wine in her hand.  

return to top