The Dead

The Dead

The Dead

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A weekly poem, read by the author.
Feb. 2 2000 3:30 AM

The Dead

They are so generous. They wait
Till the streets have gone quiet enough to sleep.
They show us around their new countries.
They show us what we wish for most


Is just there on a table. See how the slanted light
Opens the shadows of your outstretched arm?
The Cézanne pears that oddly decline to fall?
A bowl of peachcream roses? And where did they come from?

But with the dead, explanations are beside the point.
Why not a bowl of roses, Miss Inez,
A cup of berry wine, a fresh white shirt? No polyester blends
In heaven. Just 501's, 7 oz. Cokes, and breezy abundance.

Yesterday I saw how they carry you.
I stood on a sheer cliff, staring over:
A body covered with tarp on the broken shore,
And I knew it was you. The wind stuttered the tarp.

It was torn and green, held down by four stones.
Your hillocks trembled, your furrows stirred
Until you sank, and the sea was flat,
And no wave tore, and no wind rattled.

Once you were a rag doll in a bathtub of fire,
Once you called me long distance--Imagine!--You
Reversed the charges. Si prega, questi posti

sono riservati per i mutilati di guerra o lavoro.

This on the autobus printed where you sat.
You lessened as it moved away. I watched
Your white hand waving, barely gripping
An invisible lightbulb, just like the Queen. Farewell, ghost.

I loved you while you lasted and I didn't even know, here
In the day's gravity. And I'm sure the reason you give me
Yourself in night cities and churches and houses burning
Is that you are and ever shall be. My mirror. My vocation.

Stephen McLeod's book The Borgo of the Holy Ghost won the 2001 May Swenson Poetry Prize. His new book will be published in June 2001.