The Wake – a poem


(image by Pixabay)

JS had died a horrible death.

The slow burn of lung cancer.

Would we see his body? My son asked on the drive there.

We weren’t sure what awaited us

as we parked the car a few blocks up,

climbed the narrow stairs to their apartment.

We filed in and embraced the new widow

and her suit-clad son,

leaving our shoes at the door.

She looked smaller in her bare feet and black dress.

Urns of bright flowers flanked both sides

of the low altar.

The lounge room a shrine

for a dead father, husband, brother.

The airless room matched our sombre mood.

A handsome photo of the deceased

propped up on the lace.

Young faces crowded behind us,

quiet with sadness.

One friend had split his trousers

in his haste to get there from cricket.

The day JS drew his last breath his son became a man.

Or was it the weeks and months before,

when he lugged oxygen up the stairs

to keep his father at home.

Later we gathered with strangers near the pool.

It glittered like a jewel in the spring afternoon,

ignoring our sorrow.

A magpie’s cry overhead startled the group.

We headed homeward in silence,

a breathtaking sunset through the car window.

It felt wrong to go home to Netflix and a glass of wine.

But we didn’t know what else to do.