Volume 32, Number 3

In a Troubled Country

The mourners gather after the service
Along the trees at the edge of the field.
In pairs they shake hands,
Remembering the living more than the dead,

Dispirited in their responses;
Yet telling each other their private stories
In a spit vernacular, the edges of their eyes
Curled up. The family has gone,

Pulled along to the next stop
By the porously efficient funeral director.
These friends, these acquaintances,
Linger by the trees in suits they wear

Once, maybe twice, a year; women
Hold their comfortless heels in their hands,
Bare feet clutching at the cautiously mown grass.
No one’s words can be heard

More than three mourners deep;
Gestures are made elbow to thumb
And no larger. Workers begin
To dismantle the tent, fold

The chairs. Two dozen yards away
The mourners tilt their vision
Left and right and behind and ahead.
Through the trees the road is vacant.

No one ever truly knows 
If the civil enforcement agents have come.

—Ken Poyner