The Dead Live Among Us

Yesterday a friend and I visited the riverfront farmers' market in downtown Wilmington, North Carolina. We got there late. It was hot. People were walking away carrying armfuls of flowers, lugging showy striped watermelons, tugging tired children out of the street.

We worried about the dog's paws and looked for shade under the vendors' tents. We passed tables of summer vegetables, racks of flowy clothes, scented soaps and lotions, a knife sharpener, bakers, potters and a pickle makers, a woman selling mussel pearl jewelry, an dog biscuit duo giving away samples and profit. We bought some kombucha. Fell for the child who asked, Can I pet your dog?  

At the end of the market, just before we turned to go back, I saw the one thing I hadn't expected to see: a car just like his. Yellow-and-black like a wasp and I was stung. I gasped and cried out, reflexively turning away to face the water. My friend put her arm around me. The tears did all the talking. A car just like his. It would have made me smile when he was still here. But of course, impossibly, he isn't.


THE DEAD LIVE AMONG US

The dead live among us
if they’re lucky

their photographs
weigh down the mantel

narrow the hallway
their things

share the darkness
in sealed attic boxes

the stained cookbook
wants to open

to their favorite meal
a son is caught wearing

their nose and upper lip
a daughter laughs

with their fabulous shoulders
siblings fight worry

with the spasm of their brow
the luckiest dead

are still present
on their birthdays

their failings and their virtues
recollected with wry

sad smiles with audible sighs
their grandchildren

still want them back
their dog hasn’t lost

their scent in his mind
and it will be many years

before they are strangers
to the living

many years
before everyone who knew them

becomes a look around the eyes
an image under glass.

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