Aids to Navigation: A Dead Man Ode

It’s easy to hate your grandfather for killing himself
when he shot someone else first.
I’m cut from that same cloth.
It scares me every day.

                                                                                          What this is really about is that
                                                                                                 I’ve gone this long without
                                                                                      dead bodies in my mind, and now
                                                                                     this morning is in there, imprinted
                                                                                                     to replay against my will:
                                                                                                 motorcycle, pavement, man.

I’d like to think I have more influence
on me than my ancestors:
each age some nesting doll of self I can’t remember;
some think the wood’s too thick to see inward
but I know our selves are separate and stand side by side and
pretend to hold invisible hands, though each knows they’re alone.

                                                                                                  L called him “it,” is it dead?
                                                                                 and I looked back without wanting to.
                                                                                                  I just did.  It just happened.
                                                                                                         What sort of reaction –
                                                                                        no. What sort of person, does that?

Twenty-two years together and he felt this was the answer.
Two bullets for her.  One in the stomach for him.

I use the same pet names as he did.
I love you, Sug.  Come sit on your Papaw’s lap,

                                                                                     Writing about death seems impossible.
                                                                                            What do we really know about it?
                                                                                                                            All I know is
                                                                                                           he belonged to someone
                                                                                                        who doesn’t even know yet.
                                                                                                They’re at work like I’m at work.
                                                                                                            But I know.  They don’t;
                                                                          our only difference, other than: they loved him
                                                                                                                   and I hate I saw him.

There is some little nugget in the center –
an infant still in me – somewhere deepest.
We (the nesting dolls mes) attempt to keep it
weak and silent.  But this never works.  
She always gets an equal share.





Lauren McKenzie Reed received her MFA in Creative Writing from West Virginia University, where she taught for six years. She also has an MA in TESOL and, in addition to teaching and publishing, she has studied and worked in several countries, including Australia, Hong Kong, China, Ukraine, Mali, and Germany.