Click here to listen to Philip Schultz read this poem.
To pay for my father's funeral I borrowed money from people he already owed money to. One called him a nobody. No, I said, he was a failure. You can't remember a nobody's name, that's why they're called nobodies. Failures are unforgettable. The rabbi who read a stock eulogy about a man who didn't belong to or believe in anything was both a failure and a nobody. He failed to imagine the son and wife of the dead man being shamed by each word. To understand that not believing in or belonging to anything demanded a kind of faith and buoyancy. An uncle, counting on his fingers my father's business failures— a parking lot that raised geese, a motel that raffled honeymoons, a bowling alley with roving mariachis— failed to love and honor his brother, who showed him how to whistle under covers, steal apples with his right or left hand. Indeed, my father was comical. His watches pinched, he tripped on his pant cuffs and snored loudly in movies, where his weariness overcame him finally. He didn't believe in: savings insurance newspapers vegetables good or evil human frailty history or God. Our family avoided us, fearing boils. I left town but failed to get away.