There he is: more wax,
more chemicals than human
meat, in the open casket, tucked in
all that quilted satin. Jesus,
we caught up a month ago
in the Super’s produce aisle, light
and jovial despite his cancer.
He’ll move or breathe any second
now, the mind insists. Perspective–
step back. Those black
and white photographs
bookend his coffin–a life:
communion, blowing saxophone
or golfing through the ’70s, caught
on the tennis court mid-swing.
A final snap, taken in hospice
before 59–grinning to the end.
Where’s all that history now?
A lifetime in Buffalo. What the hell is that?
I kneel beside him
on the velvet bench, a thin crucifix
depending from the lid. Lew,
in grey herringbone, wears the gold watch,
wedding band and cuff links–husband,
father of two, retired school teacher. Rotten
end of the term. Well-a-day.
Go on back, neighbor,
to our common carbon. Now and then
we’d meet, taking out the trash
in the starlight–diamond-
crumbs on a blackcloth–to stop
with a friendly word.
We weren’t especially close.
Peter Ramos’s poems have appeared in Colorado Review, Puerto del Sol, Painted Bride Quarterly, Verse, Fugue, Indiana Review, Mississippi Review (online), and other journals. He is the author of one book of poetry, Please Do Not Feed the Ghost (BlazeVox Books, 2008) and three shorter collections of verse: Television Snow (Back Pages Books, 2014), Watching Late-Night Hitchcock & Other Poems (handwritten press 2004), and Short Waves (White Eagle Coffee Store Press 2003). His criticism has appeared in MELUS, College Literature, The Faulkner Journal, The CEA Critic, Mandorla, Verse, Pleiades, and Poetry Daily. An associate professor of English at Buffalo State, Peter teaches courses in nineteenth- and twentieth-century American literature.