PEOPLE WANT TO KNOW THE TRUTH
So this is it: Dad was cremated.
We kept the ashes on the dining room table
next to the bills. We ate on the old couch
until the new couch was delivered;
then we ate on the new couch.
We talked about the ashes, how we were sure
he’d had a hundred dollars in his jeans pocket
we forgot to ask for. We hoped the coroner got it
and bought a new suit or some shoes.
Three weeks later, a letter in the mail:
a hundred twenty dollars, some change.
So we bought a bottle of whiskey and a cake,
threw a party. Friends flew in,
someone brought a veggie platter.
We set up on a Saturday in the front yard.
Midmorning, we were still cooking in the kitchen
when a car pulled up: plastic stroller in the front seat,
Christmas wrapping paper in the back.
Lady wanted to buy our lawn chairs for three dollars each.
While everyone else fixed the platters upstairs
I arranged tables in the driveway,
sold hotdogs and salsa dip to bargain hunters.
We did buy a cake: big, white, from Walmart
where they have that machine that converts photos
to frosting. So there’s Dad, holding an umbrella,
trying to sell something at an auction.
You can’t tell, but he’s wearing lederhosen.
Never let the truth stand in the way of a good story
in blue letters ‘cross the top.
The cake lady thought it was for a birthday party.
I said no, a wake.
We’d had a memorial service,
but the poem the priest read was not Dad’s favorite;
not until the wake did we pull out The Ballad of Sam McGee,
reading the verses between shots of Wild Turkey.
People went home eventually, but sometimes
we received a phone call, someone asking
Do you remember? And we did,
all over again, while the ashes sat on the table
and we ate our dinner in the living room
on the old couch until the new couch was delivered.
That winter, we decided to bury his ashes.
Almost too late we remembered
he wanted a bagpiper at his funeral
I spent the morning on the phone and found one.
The only truth that matters is something went wrong
halfway through “Amazing Grace.”
The bagpipes popped loudly, the way Pringles cans do
when you squeeze them to make the tops blow off.
MPhil student in Classics at the University of Cambridge, England
Wicked Alice, 2River, Poems Niederngasse, 3rd Muse, Verse Libre Quarterly, etc.
Current | Previous
Submit | Editors
Join | Donate
Links | Contact