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