“The Funeral” by Ellis McGinley

Ellis McGinley (age 15)


I remember the bagpipes.

There aren’t many things my memory holds on to, but when it comes to my grandfather’s funeral,

I remember the bagpipes.

I remember the squeaking rendition of Amazing Grace, my first-grade self convinced they sounded like geese.

My mother told me they were my grandfather’s favorite, my round little face and wide eyes nodding up at her from the church pew we hovered next to, captured, frozen in this moment like the Mother Mary mourning her son in the stained-glass windows.

I remember his wake, too, the way I slipped from the too-bright coatroom into the chilly drear of the day outside on the iron landing, tip-toeing around the decomposing remains of discarded cigarette butts. I remember the way the flag was folded so sharply in the triangle case by his coffin. I remember the flowers drowning his corpse like he had managed to die in the Garden of Eden, his Adam’s apple paused like he was still just about to swallow, throat white above his black silk tie. I think I remember the quiet moment I slipped up to him, kneeling by the box he’d rot in, my baby hand clutching his withered one.

I can still feel the cold waxiness, the violet veins with no blood left in them. I know his closed eyelids, face turned towards me, the perfumed flower-spice scent of his corpse. His eyelids, artificially built to seem peaceful, couldn’t see me, and I only kneeled, silently, for a second before I left him.

But clearest of all, above the drizzle of rain on young shoulders, the anthers of the lilies trimmed to my mother’s approval as to not get pollen on his funeral suit,

I remember the bagpipes.

from 2018 Rattle Young Poets Anthology


Why do you like to write poetry?

Ellis McGinley: “I write poetry because it allows me to express myself, my identity, and my experiences in ways I struggle to verbalize to others in conversation. Poetry is a free form of expression where I can sculpt how I feel into the most accurate depiction and communicate that to others who share similar emotions and experiences.”

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