We are all shoved into this room,
molecules squeezed into forms,
our eyes grown heavy on cue,
sacs of tears bulging like tiny bellies.
A silent moat surrounds the body
blue beneath nude-colored paint.
No one wants to make the cross,
to touch the uncle, cousin, friend
of a friend we never knew, his body
inert. Small hands nudge the organ
keys into a funeral song. We sway,
swagger the valleys and shadows
of this death,
as though we don’t
want to say it. Linda has gained
weight. Granny gets crazier
every year. We all know John
is shacking up with his girlfriend,
and Aunt May hates Uncle Bill.
Our cousin is creepy and stands
too close. He’s wearing a toupee.
We swallow words
and press tissue to our eyes,
hug the language of mourning
that draws us together
for burial, like pilgrims.
—from Rattle #22, Winter 2004