“What the Recently Dead are Doing” by Carolyn Martin

While the living are busy collecting sympathy
            and casseroles – before confronting closets
                        and unpaid bills, after contacting Social Security,
                                    insurance, and far-flung relatives –
the just-dead dead are roaming through
            clouded neighborhoods puzzled by empty lots
                        where their self-styled mansions should be.
                                    They double-check addresses, review promises.
Someone got something wrong.
At the end of one leaf-less street, a school
            of dim-haloed wings are bantering with Plato,
                        Darwin, Shakespeare, Marx, and Frost
                                    about the myths of Heaven and eternity.
Someone proposed good stories keep the good in tow.
But the eavesdropping dead complain, We paid
            our dues for everlasting bliss. We’re owed.
                        Wings droop. Thinkers roll their eyes.
                                    The evening breeze does what breezes do.
Someone flips the bardo’s hourglass.
Meanwhile, my father lies in a casket in Florida.
            He forgot to turn the sprinklers off and take the garbage out,
                        forgot to hang the bronze sun-burst on the backyard fence,
                                    forgot to remind my mother/his best friend he loved her first.
He tells passers-by he has work to do and almost rises
            from his satin sheets when he recalls – with twinges
                        of relief – Death is a transient stopping by
                                    from time to time to pack up memories.
Someone tallies grains of sand and calls it a day.

From associate professor of English to management trainer to retiree, Carolyn Martin has journeyed from New Jersey to Oregon to discover Douglas firs, months of rain, and dry summers. Her poems have appeared in publications throughout North America, Australia, and the UK, and her fourth collection, A Penchant for Masquerades, was released by Unsolicited Press in 2019. She is currently the poetry editor of Kosmos Quarterly: journal for global transformation. Find out more at www.carolynmartinpoet.com.