After everything they’ve done, he still looks
dead, and we still touch his dusty cheek
with our moist lips. The children of the family—
nieces, nephews, cousins—parade past the coffin
like strangers on a tour of some landmark or other.
I forget which one of them I carried
on my shoulders, which one of them pulled
on my beard before gray hairs conquered brown.

And yet, we move together in one direction,
like memories from childhood. My memories
are sure to go unspoken later over hot dishes of food
other strangers dropped off earlier. Like the time
I stole his toupee for Halloween. Or the way he stole
quick smokes in the bathroom even after cancer
cost him half a lung. Or all the tips he never left
whenever he treated me and my wife to dinner.

I clench my fists and tighten my jaw
when my sister the infidel stumbles over
prayers she’s asked to read at the last minute,
ashamed of her for such a display of emotion.
My mother touches her sleeve, dabs her eyes.
All is kindness when it no longer matters.
When it’s over we turn our backs to him
and walk away just as if he were still alive.

Kip Knott | Mudlark No. 26
Contents | Lying in a Mound of Leaves