Twenty-First Century Flint Mary Leonard

When an Old Friend I Happened To Meet

At my sister’s funeral, friends
arrived like movie extras and dad sang
Who died, like old lyrics stuck, while his child,
at age 47, struck by cancer, lay dead
Caroline died, I said.

I wanted to find myself in the river’s wake,
that day, to leave suicide notes with friends
but rose, like Lazarus, and said,
Not yet, even while losing words to songs,
even knowing my emotions were dead,
even confusing the names of my children.

Then I discovered my own children’s
eyes in dad’s hazel-blue and I woke
to his movements between life and death,
rocking in doorways, eyes averted from friends
while the radio played only the good die young.

I can’t show dad how I feel, mother said
so she did not cry but held my children’s
hands like life itself, while I heard songs
my sister loved, riding the wake
of pain, holding onto the arms of a friend
who mumbled the right words about death,

and I gripped him, trying not to be dead
to words, love, anything done or said.
I felt the eyes of friends
waiting , watching me, my children
so I plucked out one daisy from the bouquet, awake,
singing softly, I was dancing with my darling, her song—

when an old friend I happened to meet, her song—
meeting this day, Death,
like an old friend, who would pull me into his wake,
using words like sorry, so sorry, mouthing
cliches, all those tired words, remember your children,
your friends.

But I would say to friends, children,
anyone, on this day of death, wake up, yes, dance—singing,
Why not, with anyone you happen to meet?


October 2002 2River