Skipping the Funeral Reception
After Tom’s funeral, I drove to my childhood neighborhood,
its street shrunk by time. I paused by the mouth of the Masons’
garage where Mark’s Yamaha felt its first hunger,
where his father’s MG rested on wood blocks blackened
by gasoline and oil stains. Mark, the first to die in a heap
of bike and bark from a red maple’s trunk. Mark, now
a weathered cross-stick in the knapweed off River Road.
The widow Seavey’s house next door, its paint curling like
old calendar pages in a patch of sun: her porch, airy and empty,
the missing wrought iron table where she once filled a cookie jar
with fresh hermits each morning, brown sugar preserving
the warmth soft and sweet with summer afternoons.
Then Merilee Miller’s bone-colored split ranch. The girl
who belittled tough boys like us when we wore eye black
for football, calling it a hidden urge for make-up. A suicide
in her forties, someone at Tom’s funeral told me.
And the hill we tobogganed each winter, crouching like an
embarrassed knoll between these houses harboring hidden
interlopers, each one whispering names only I could hear:
Seavey’s, Mason’s, Miller’s. The board and batten of memory.
Mark, Merilee, my brother. And me, just from the funeral
of the fourth—Tom. The boy we shoved because we could.
Chiclet smile. The blue eyes of hero worship. Stopping
on the corner, looking at his saltbox Cape, I remembered his mother
lifting the window sash, calling after her son, her voice climbing
the north wind: “Tom, you going caroling with the boys?”
Yes. Tom with the rest of us for once. Heading up the street
under a lead-box sky one brazenly-cold Christmas Eve. Boys
so happy and sure we even let Tom tag along. “Joy to the World”
rising in brief clouds. Mouths filled with the lie of immortal life.
Ken Craft is the author of two collections of poetry, Lost Sherpa of Happiness (Kelsay Books) and The Indifferent World (FutureCycle Press). His third collection, Reincarnation & Other Stimulants, will be released in 2021.