The Day of Papa's Funeral
And there we stood, the family,
foremost in black and closed off faces.
Then sevenhundred folks from town,
they all had come to give respect
one final time to one who had
for 60 years been always there.
A fancy bell, with tiny light
would spell the words 'Right There',
as reassurance in advance
things will be soon alright.
Ungodly hours were the norm
for illness shuns convenience
three thousand souls had no one else
combined they stooped his shoulders.
The trusty horse, with cart or sled
had learned the timely lesson
would do his part until the end
there were occasions when a lad
of very small dimensions
could hitch a ride, observe raw life
in awe and love for father.
Though it was never very clear
exactly whether time
or duty kept the answers far
truth is that little eyes,
looked up with need and full of hope
for signs of some exotic
and somewhat undefinable
or needful expectation.
It never came, there never was
that gleam that little boys
do know to be the hug of minds
all winds were really cold.
And decades passed
and shyness ruled
the whip ruled our world
tradition was the handshake though,
a touching gesture, really.
'It's women's work, to hug and kiss
men have their solemn duties',
grandparents did seem mellower
and babysitters, scrumptious
would give the hugs and kisses, too
I do bless all those years
they were in evidence today
in deepest black and dark of face.
And like a naughty little boy
I watched their frozen faces
and wondered who was really sad
and who was here to just be seen
and what did I, myself, reveal
to my own soul today
to say good-bye, there was no choice
I could not give an answer.
It started snowing then, was cold
and what an inconvenience
the dust that each of us threw in
was mixed with flakes of white
I could not help but grin right then
'You gonna freeze your ass'.
We all went home, aware of death
a bit more for a week
there wasn't one who would have gone
in place of him, not one
and tiny thoughts, stirred up by words
of pastor's glowing sermon
reminded of mortality, today it was not time.
Gravedigger Johann closed the hole
I stayed behind to watch
he winked and spat tobacco juice
and said 'there lies a valued man
but all his stuff went with him.'
There was his brain, crammed full of facts
a spritely body, filled with duty
so many bones and other features,
oh, what a waste, to drown it all
within cheap dirt, and for the worms
a marble stone reminding
that what we have on mother earth
is something of no substance.
So will it matter what they think
when they go see the new one
the memory of their old Doc
it may just die inside them,
or at the time when all of us
pass through our final hour
and only marble gravestones might
last just a few years longer.
Herbert Nehrlich's Other Poems
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