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Buying A Coffin for the Recently Deceased

ISSUE:  Autumn 2002

I settle into the chair like a flock of starlings
landing nervously in a white oak on the edge of a pasture
after vacating a peach orchard where they were
fired upon by two small boys with shotguns,
one an old sixteen gauge, its forestock and butt laced with light
scratches from endless briar patches, thorns hard with frost
as they brush against the gun and the boy, the gun and the father,
the gun and the grandfather, all plunging
after the beagles bawling, and that same rabbit,
always the same one, running, ears back and turned to the ground
as if to dump out the awful music of hounds. The other
       shotgun is a

. 410 single shot, stock and barrel held in an uneasy relationship
by yellowed string older than the boy. One of the boys
      loves peaches
cold with ice cream on late summer mornings
and the other quivers with a mindless desire for loud noises,
a need to collect feathers, bones, pretty rocks and seeds.


My hands twitch, I feel like whistling.
The pallid man sits down at his desk.
Papers on his desk, color brochures,
stationery, receipts, things of a business.
His hands move among these items like pale mice
darting for cover amongst leaves and sticks.
His nails are thick and pink, his wrists hairy.
Ah yes, he murmurs, selects a glossy sheaf of paper,
these we have on the premises. These I can show you.
I take the paper from his hand. It shines.
The clock on the wall behind him reads 4:56.
I can hear it ticking.
I can feel some cog, some wheel,
deep inside it, moving.


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