two poems by Gary Rainford


Rose Hill

“How do dead people pee?” asks Meri,
tapping the car window, her face a scrambled word
search. We are driving past Rose Hill

cemetery. I look in the rear-view mirror.
Meri’s question is serious, no joke. But I wonder
if it’s healthy for a kid

four years old to think about dead people. Once,
when we were passing the Cloud House,
a creepy, boarded-up seasonal place on the Atlantic

Loop, Meri wanted to know if ghosts were living
year-round in the attic, if they were friendly or not,
and before that, she had asked what happens

when cemeteries run out of holes? Is being dead
like looking for parking spaces at Walmart
or waiting on the toilet? No, I tell her. Dead people

leave their bodies. Like when Daddy separates
yolks from egg whites. Spirits detach. Once you
are dead, body functions end. Hearts stop

pumping blood, lungs stop using oxygen, eyes stop
dreaming, and you’ll never pee again,
not in this world, at least. “Daddy?” Meri’s

chipped-tooth smile bites her bottom
lip. “When we get home, instead I’m not dead yet,
I think I have to go pee.”

Delicate, yellow

Cupped in his hand is the dead
warbler he peeled off the bug splattered grille
of his work truck.

“I thought she was still alive,” he says
poking her with the blunt nail of his index finger,

and then he buries her
with a roundhouse pitch into the thick
of a lilac shrub
gone by, shakes his head and says, “Hope I go
that easy.”


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