The Mourner’s Song
You can die in January if you want,
and lots of people do, but this far north,
nobody gets into the ground till spring.
Harold waited last year as Hannah waits now,
as our ancestors waited back in Norway.
Memorial at 11:00AM. Remains
to be interred at a later date.
I start to tell about the winter it hit
forty below and they closed the school, so
my friends and I walked a mile to the hill
and spent the whole day sledding.
But the end of every sentence scurries away
into the corners of my mind. I track it down,
step on its tail and pick it up, but too late,
the talk has moved on.
My daughter still has the tiny dresses Hannah
made for her Barbie, slender sheath, elegant jacket,
top doll fashion of 1965.
Pastor Carla says how hard it must have been,
losing her husband, says it several times,
but nothing about how hard it was
finding him in the garage, car still running,
after the bad planting of ’74.
They sing “What a friend we have in Jesus.”
“Christ Almighty what a pal!” I think,
but do not sing.
The church ladies have honored their old friend
with no mere ham-buns, but both kinds of hotdish,
hamburger and tuna, and bars for dessert.
My cell phone rings, and by the time I’ve figured
which way is right side up, the call is gone.
I get so goddam mad, sometimes.
As we head off to our own later dates
past huddled cows and stubble fields, grain bins
with conical Tin Man tops, the snow skirls
dry and meager across the frozen road.