God, Madam, Dog
Todd Keith

"The tendency has always been strong to believe that whatever received a name must be an entity or begin having an independent existence of its own. And if no real entity answering to the name could be found, men did not for that reason suppose that none existed, but imagined that it was something particularly abstruse and mysterious." John Stuart Mill

Rain and a graveyard,
grass cut so low it turns white.
A crowd gathered sitting on aluminum chairs set over artificial grass.
Looking so hard I can see a resurrected figure coming across the lawn toward the tent if I try.
A joining of hands, handkerchiefs passed, the miserable dripping of tears.
Disease. Death. Oblivion.
Words in the face of instant reversal.
When grandmother died, my cousin screamed at me
and my brother playing on parlor steps:
"Ora is dead, and y’all laugh and run around!"
"What do you think she would want? Us crying or laughing?"
I asked with 10-year old venom.
And then a boy dead before 21 in a hull of bent steel. The same black suits, fake grass, tears.
Or an uncle sick, his body unable to destroy the simplest bacteria. An emptying of new furniture.
Or a mother dead of cancer. The family abandoning the house, or the house abandoning them.
Most confusing is departure without arrival,
the absence of life and poor substitute of grief.
Buildings to solve questions,
funeral repositories, waiting rooms to speed the body on to the grave,
surely not for the body, but for us watchers and waiters.
"You can’t use a pine box anymore. It’s illegal," someone said.
"Who would want to?" a reply.
"Let’s go already."
Past the long black car, the sheriff’s lights and the rain.
Beyond the waiting rooms and waiting words,
Towards the naming of places, oh towards the places we will go and back again. home