The tone of the green flat line on the screen was brief:
the nurses thought it rude to let it sing
its bleak little ditty
so like funeral bells; an angry lament that
I would never voice
when I was still alive.
The people who thought they knew me
began to plan between bunches of wet tissues
thinking they missed me, but really didn’t,
caught as they were in the drama of posthumous life,
wondering beneath their sobs
how long they had left to suffer merrily on earth.
With clinical precision I was violated
by strange hands,
dressed and arranged
so as not to frighten fragile minds who
grieved not with grief, but pity and due consideration.
My wife spoke from her black widow’s veil
assuring whomever doubted
that I had been a good man,
though if I weren’t
her words wouldn’t change their order,
nor would my son and daughters
quit their weeping,
not knowing what it meant,
nor what strange man they saw
in the raised cushioned box.
The bald man in the cassock spoke kindly
though the man he spoke of was unknown to me
as I listened in fascination
to a list of achievements that were mine
and attitudes that were not, after which
the dirt was packed over my cramped little box
by men who smoked and chatted as they toiled.
My wife and children still came by
until my wife came and never left
and my children were left to the task
of remembering a man whom they saw
in old, faded pictures
and honored with neither
affection nor bitterness.
I was a stranger they loved by custom
at whose grave they placed the exact flower
which I had hated most in life,
not knowing that it mattered to me now,
not knowing that I collected their little tears,
and others’ as well, in a cup,
and, upon taking a sip, found the drink to be
a dissatisfying brew indeed.