The Dead

I know people who are dead.

I know them as well as I know those who live;

yet, I don’t know the living like I know the dead.

I am one way or the other, I don’t know which way I am.


I expected Joe to die.

We talked and laughed beforehand.

I cried a little at his graveside funeral.

It rained, too, just enough to cool the ground

and keep down the flames before Joe got his bearings.


It was different when Norman died. He was only 48

and I was young and I didn’t know a dead man.

Norman was a serious person who thought people ought,

and should, and could, and would — that they were called.


Norman said to go as far as you can go then let God carry you.

That way, he said, when you die it will be peaceful.

He was right, but it didn’t rain and I cried too much.

There was nothing to cool the earth.

No one should touch God, even if he will let you.


Rex never expected to die. He never went near God,

so, he thought he was safe. He, too, was 48.

He trusted doctors, but it did no good.

There was no funeral service, no ground to cry over,

No earth to cool. Belief is everything.


Rex never forgave his ex-wife for their marriage.

He loved his children too much for a man who lived in one room.

We drank a glass of whiskey in that room.

We talked of Norman.

Rex said God touched Norman and Norman died.

It made Rex shudder.


Like Rex, Bill had no funeral service.

Before he died he refused to wear any clothes.

He stopped talking to Ann.

On the last day, I helped carry him on a stretcher

from his house to an ambulance.


They took Bill to the hospital and stored him in a room.

I sat next to his bed and listened to his attempts to breathe.

I think he must have said, “There, we’re even.” Then he expired.


I picked up his ashes from the Crematorium.

I remember thinking, “Someone should have said something.”

Bill had hidden from God for a long time,

but, finally, he had given up.

Ashes, ashes, all fall down.

The ground was hot, but what could flames do to ashes?


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