Hometown Funeral

I want warriors at my funeral,
each red necked, milked-chested fellow
in his one tie, a suit that used to fit.
They make great pallbearers,
are okay at the grave, in any role
where silence is required, but it’s hard
to get them inside afterward,
church basement, at the house. They clump
in the parking lot, out in the yard,
near the comfort of pickup trucks. While the women
chat and fuss, put out sandwiches, potato salad,
despair-black coffee, the men
talk in short words, call the dead man
by his last name, his clan. In the second hour
the laughter starts. They’re stepping back,
as they used to from the pyre they’d pile
with axes, spears, gold rings,
away from that heat changing flesh to story.

- Susan Blackwell Ramsey (1958-)