Darrell died. His heart stopped.
He was sitting in his brown, reclining chair.
No one thought about masks. No one sanitized the air.
It was a month before the installation of Saint Fauci
and all that.
Darrell and Janet,
our neighbors from across the street. I was twelve.
They loved my great-grandmother. She loved them.
They treated me as if I belonged, as if I mattered.
They were older,
but not so old they’d ever step inside an un-ending horizon,
at least not in my time.
Darrell inside the air, making up his own horizon,
like a contrail.
Darrell forever in his chair;
yet no trace; no pictures. Eyes wide; voices covered.
Our grand-parents knew his milk-man father, Hans.
Darrell was always a little boy in their eyes.
It was before me; before Janet, his love; his reason.
He walked to the grocery store, stood next to his father
and claimed his place. Eventually, he drove tractors for a living.
He liked to recite tehillim.
Darrell and his stories:
his characters never cussed,
I left a message on his cell phone the day he died.
I thought he might still be in his chair.
No one returned my call.
Not his son,
not his daughter;
not even Janet.
Everybody gone. Simple as it was.
(One spring day, driving back from Lompoc,
Darrell said “the dead know nothing…they’re just dead.”
I was sixteen. We laughed.
Janet said, “Stop it Darrell. You’ll scare her.”)
Months of horizons spill upon the Tepesquet Mountains
east of town. I suppose Darrell’s chair was really empty.
I’d given him my great-grandmother’s antique clock
to remember her when she died. I was afraid he’d forget us.
Now I’m worried. Is there someone left to wind it?
Months of silence pass…
Then I dreamt Janet into death:
“I’ve died. I was lying in bed and missed Darrell.
Sorry I didn’t call you. I should have called. We should have
cried together and remembered the past—
things like driving back from Lompoc, evening visits and Darrell
saying Kaddish for your grandparents.”
I knew it was her because it was a shy, rosy voice.
It made the horizon catch fire.
Then it was morning. I was awake.
There was Janet, smiling from an internet death-notice.
Still, that’s one obituary that truly surprised me.
So much for “the dead knowing nothing;
at least they know they’re dead.
Janet and Darrell
no longer in the world. Imagine that.
Imagine empty chairs, stripped beds,
silent clocks, rosy voices towering above the crowd
as if G-d was making faces at us.
Oh well. Now we use masks so G-d can’t find our faces.
What progression—a bureaucrat’s most spotless accomplishment in history.
Soon it will be Memorial Day:
barbeques for those who’ve died this past year;
each person, all at once,
a few stories for the living;
nostalgia for the dead,
a bon-fire, so the children won’t leave frightened.
The long drive home…
…then summer grabs hold.