VIEWING WHAT REMAINS

casket

Did you want to see him?

I mean if you want to see him,

this is your last chance.

They’re cremating him today.

I just thought you might want to

see him, but it doesn’t matter —

I mean it’s up to you. If you do,

we’ll have them hold off until you can

get here. If you want, I’ll pick you up.

 

He rubbed the hand, held it in his hand,

felt the fingers and looked at the palm,

stroked the forehead and the scalp

with his other hand. Look at that mop, he said,

lightly patting the hair, gettin’ a little

thin, but he never lost it.

My friend’s voice was soft, raspy,

a lot like his father’s, now lying covered

on the table: pale, eyes closed.

 

Pretty amazing, huh? He moved

around the body, touched the other arm,

It’s like he’s sleeping, like he might sit up

and say “What the goddamn hell

are you lookin’ at?” I saw a tear

roll off his cheek and dot the sheet.

He pulled a handkerchief from his hip pocket,

wiped his face and blew his nose,

Yeah, he looks like he’s just takin’ a nap.

 

My friend lifted the sheet, felt

his father’s feet. Feel that, he said, and I did,

my feet feel that cold, sometimes. Don’t yours?

I nodded, brushed the smooth skin

atop the arch of the foot,

noted the tarsal tendons, the thick,

yellow toe nails — my foot,

absent the bulging vein, that liquid

that keeps us on this side of the veil —

holding tight to each other

and staring into the night.

 

— for Burt

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