Listen to Tony Hoagland read this poem.
The dictator in the turban died and was replaced by a dictator in a Western business suit. Now that he looked like all the other leaders, observers
detected a certain relaxing of tensions. Something in the air
said the weather was changing,
and if you looked up at the sky and squinted, you could almost see
the faint dollar signs embossed upon the big, migrating clouds,
sucking up cash in one place, raining it down in another.
Meanwhile I was trying to get across town,
to my brother-in-law's funeral,
speeding through yellow lights, arriving late,
taking my place in a line of idling cars
outside the cemetery. Having to wait with everyone else
because no one had gotten the code number
to punch into the keypad on the automatic gate.
Cold day. The neighborhood, ugly and poor,
like a runny nose,
a reminder of misery in the world.
And Barney was dead, big PartyBoy Barney,
famous for his appetite and lack of self-control—
—now, needing an extra-large coffin,
as if he was taking his old friends
Drinking Eating and Smoking
into the hole with him.
—So what hovered over the proceedings that afternoon
was a mixture of grief and vindication—
like a complex sauce the pallbearers and aunts
were floating in, each one thinking,
"Oh God! I told him this would happen!"