Seeing Him Off

You could tell the Catholics right away
down on their knees
prayed, talked to him,
patted his hand
came back to say goodbye

So many cousins, siblings,
the young grandsons had been weeping
before we got there
now subdued
they sat in the corner

We had no practice with wakes
open caskets
could not decide where to look
whether staring at him was rude
we took quick sidewise glances
now and again

She was surrounded by talkers
how he loved music
what a joker he had been
such a good heart, kind to all

No one mentioned the years of drinking
the arguments that split the family
only his dying
brought them to this common ground

Lari Smith