An Insouciant Prayer for the Dead

Kneeling at your casket posed ramrod straight like you,
I turn my head toward yours as if your sense of self survived
your dying. As if I owe it more attention than your feet.
Then I bow my head and mumble through a prayer lodged
in my memory for decades; a lesion in my godless soul
too close to some essential part of me to risk removing.

Ironic for an infidel to be among the last to bend your ear,
if only inwardly.  To steal your final moments with the ones
who speak of you with wrenching sobs. For you,
a respite from the crying and contorted faces of those
who canít accept your fate. But sewn and painted by
an expert hand, your placid face instead suggests composure and
acceptance; as if you hadnít begged your god to save you;
as if you really thought thereíd be a place for you to go.

Face to face with folded hands and fingers threaded as if in prayer
we look like twins dressed in our Sunday best except we hold
our bodies rigidly in separate planes of space and being. You supine and
me erect (for now, ha ha), we form a rough-hewn cross
for those who watch us from behind and strain to see such symbols.
Who search in vain for meaning in such things.
As I still do, it seems.

Neither of us wants to be here, but neither of us has much say
in the matter. Itís just you and me, kid, the only ones not speaking,
and the only ones who know for sure that youíre not with the angels now.
Not in some place of endless light and love. Not anywhere but in this roomful 
of cheesy bouquets and wan attempts at empathy. Stiff as rebar,
yet looking remarkably natural, considering.

Donald F. Sellitti

If you have any thoughts on this poem, Donald F. Sellitti  would be pleased to hear them.