The bar’s got red lights under the chairs,
swanky, and Frank’s in the hot seat,
undertaker at his father’s funeral
home in Hoboken—tells us these insane stories
about how sometimes they get someone
on the embalming table who’s not really dead.
He says “once you start draining ‘em
it’s too late to go back.”
So it’s possible to die once
and then again, at the hand of your preserver,
some guy from Jersey who’ll tell your story,
maybe amp it up a little for shock value
at a Meat Packing District bar.
Any other time, this might be really disturbing.
But no one can be dead when you’re drinking
martinis, dressed all chic in Manhattan black.
We shriek, cover dark holes in our faces
with our hands, squeal like a bunch of girls
and the undertaker eats it up.
We ignore our thoughts of your sister,
on a table in some grim basement,
the funeral that followed, when someone like Frank,
his face getting flushed now from too much whiskey,
had on a calm suit and an empathetic expression.
We were there in our mourning black,
and youth was nothing to be so boisterous about.
None of that’s real at the bar called “Tonic”
except afterwards, emerging from the dank subway,
arm-in-arm and almost home,
we pass a bouquet of flowers,
cheap carnations chucked into a gutter
by an angry lover, and I remember
how you tossed the last flower
into your sister’s grave in a field in Pennsylvania.
How you stood and watched it fall
all the way in, never expecting
its restless refusal, how it would fly
out of the earth, turning over itself
in the air, always landing in your hand,
needing to be buried again and again.