Holy Saturday afternoon, most dismal of the calendar.
Just waiting in the paraffin air.
There is a place where wild oats grow,
Dull flowers, more winter, not spring,
The stone wall that goes up hill.
Olive, nodding lilies made for a waiting day.
Sighting up the line to where you’re buried.
Up the hill, where the stone wall didn’t reach
In the plot of cousins
Who gave you room, finally,
The shame of death with the shame of life, notwithstanding,
By quick subtraction, going on twenty-seven years.
A young death, for me,
You bastard son of a hard family.
Too far gone to shake any more heads.
Tall, strong, day laborer.
Strong, like your hard-assed brother
You should have lasted a drunk till now.
But drunk to death, even so.
Not even the romance of a car crash
To bury you by.
You weren’t hard,
Seven, or maybe six, in town, after school,
Falling in the street, cut my knee,
Afraid of visible tears and shame.
Suddenly, was stood on my feet.
“You ‘ll right kid?”
Never heard you again.
But eyes, blue and red,
Your face too old for its age.
The smell of liquor and cigarettes.
Scared me sober.
In your gaze,
The first time I ever saw
The ground of everything.
Your hand tight on my arm.
No more than a second, you held me up,
A drunk, I’d heard,
No more than another before you went on
To drink the rest,
But two were enough
To draw me up the hill,
Twice as old as you, now.
To hope for, but never to stand you up.