When my grandmother died, my mother’s mother,
I was in third grade. The funeral parlor
sat across the street from my school, and for
two days instead of going home I walked
from the school to the spot where Grandma lay,
looking better than she had in years, but
cold and dead. I sat in the back, far from
the corpse, and tried to keep out of trouble,
but between visitors kept my sad mother
company, and felt the strangeness not just
of the event, occasion but of being
in this weird, fragrant room rather than home.
Now the custom has changed. No afternoons,
and just one evening, for my father‘s wake.
But we’re back in the same funeral parlor,
run now by the daughter, whose own father died
some years back. The sign’s been altered to
reflect her hyphenated name. They’ve done
their best with Dad. He too looks better now,
though that just makes it seem some impostor
lies in his coffin. But it’s him, of course.
And yet it’s not. He‘s here, and yet he’s gone.
And all I know of who he was lives now
solely, though vividly, inside of me,
while he lies still. At least, his body does.
When Grandma died, I felt enormous guilt
because I didn’t miss her all that much.
A crabby old woman who once forced me
to bathe in the kitchen sink, making me
favor showers for the rest of my life.
But I miss my father terribly, sense
I’ll miss him more and more as time goes on.
Already he’s become for me a man
whose faults I love as much as his good points.
Faults? I hear him say, in mock surprise.
What faults? The priest is praying over him.
Yet I know, or think I do, he needs no
help to make his way through heaven’s gate, if
such a place exists, and he does as well.
Though even now I cannot seem to pray,
I hope angels have met him on his way.