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Dies Illa

ISSUE:  Winter 2000
It’s modern, graveside,
to shield the bereaved,
postpone the final

creak of straps till after
the limos leave. Not so
cremation’s nascent

protocol: mourners at the wall
must bear the squeak
of lazy iron fly

crawling up marble, a digger
in a jumpsuit astride
the lift’s tiny platform,

in his hands the precious
bronze cigar box
carried like a lunch.

The director calls “it”
John, as if indeed my brother
lived there, poured

in lumps like sugar or salt,
small as Alice post-drink.
He is placed, stuck to rest

in peace, the niche so high
it’s hard to read names,
the refrain “What is John?”

like an answer in reverse
playing Jeopardy,
haunting and tormenting.


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