“Death’s still the secret of life.” –Charles Wright
What can I say?
He looks like me in the old days.
Young, vigorous–the bloom of life
still haunts his cheeks. Dark-suited,
silk tie knotted perfectly, it’s me
pre-shrinkage and with a nicer wrap.
He greets me with a firm hand,
more used I think to welcoming
a colder crowd, but comfy in his role
of meeting clients in their time of need
(are there any funeral directors
who sadden at the thought of breathing?).
Arriving straight from chemo
I’ve come to pre-pay my cremation
or “crisping” as I call it,
tying up loose ends which
threaten to tie up on their own
this tail end of a shrinking life.
And standing here before me
is a healthy specimen who will
(I hope) navigate the minefield
of is and was and ever shall be
as unabashed as any pole
dancer in a Gentleman’s club.
I want to tell him that life
is like a scratch-off: the odds
of winning are slight. And that
I will not be Tom Sawyer hiding
in the rafters counting heads
and watching as they shove me
Hansel-like into the oven
while a man in shirtsleeves
turns on the gas and out
I pop as warm and fresh and
fragrant as a gingerbread man.
No, I write him a check for $3500
and–ashes to ashes—that is that.
I walk into the parking lot
where the sun hangs like a disco ball
floating over an empty dance floor,
the sky rinsed light blue–
turned inside out like a pocket.
A wisp of clouds or is it smoke?
(how near is the crematorium, I wonder?)
I catch the unmistakable scent of burgers
grilling in someone’s backyard
—so close I can almost smell the beer.
My dry-sored mouth begins to water.
I’m here. I’m clear.
I’m all paid up.
Yes. Yes. Yes.
We have a winner.
D.G. Geis lives in Houston, Texas. He has an undergraduate degree in English Literature from the University of Houston and a graduate degree in philosophy from California State University. His poetry has appeared in 491 Magazine, Lost Coast, Blue Bonnet Review, The Broadkill Review, A Quiet Courage, SoftBlow International Poetry Journal, Blinders, Burningword Literary Journal, Poetry Scotland (Open Mouse), Crosswinds, Scarlet Leaf, Sweet Tree, Atrocity Exhibition, Driftwood Press, Tamsen and Crack the Spine. He will be featured in a forthcoming Tupelo Press chapbook anthologizing 9 New Poets and is winner of Blue Bonnet Review‘s Fall 2015 Poetry Contest.