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Where I grew up, wakes were a sparring ground—
furor was the only defense to grief. Someone
had to fight the rant of all those flowers.
That is how I remember the dead,
lone among loud voices and the odor
of calla lilies and plastic chairs—caves
where a child could seek solace
from black-veiled, arguing aunts.
I played solitaire with the prayer cards,
until I was slapped soundly by a velvet glove.
I waited for the priest to arrive.
He was beautiful; I remember his cassock
whispering toward me.
Everyone was quiet then. I remember that.
As all of us stood, I cried;
not for the lonely dead—for the living—
who dread the sumptuous air,
the unadorned smile, the fervent prayer.
Copyright 2017 Philip F. Clark. From The Carnival of Affection (Sibling Rivalry Press). Included in Vox Populi by permission of the author.