When a Man Dies

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We mourn in a single room. Beneath the dirty window,
a mother plays idly with the hand of her smallest child,
taking tiny palm between her own, & pushing down
on young skin as though kneading human dough.

Her eyes remain towards the ground, only flickering
when startled by sound: sister-in-law calling her name/
frantic ringing of bell / screeching of U-turn below.

Her eldest daughter rises, circles the dim room, offering
women small cups of coffee. Pink paper cups threaten
to melt, to crumple with heat. This entire room,
crumbling. The wall unit circulates noise & not air.

Stale eyes follow the girl around the room, watch her
pour steaming drink, then bend to give the next guest.
Do we call the people at funerals guests? Are they not
more like an audience? She is beautiful, newly orphaned
child. Her mother, young widow, plagued to age alone.

A car screams from the street; women tisk their tongues,
cursing careless drivers & tender fate. The mother curls
her fingers at the sound, holding more tightly to what is
familiar: forgiving skin of forgiving child. This tiny hand –
half hers, & half his.

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