The visitation line queues
all the way to the parking lot,
meandering its way through cologne,
cigarettes, wet August heat,
and the stink of starched mourners
on their best funeral behavior.
We wait to pay respect.
You, being experienced in
these rituals, scribble our names
in a journal, proof we care
and came here. It’s insurance,
in case it ever becomes an issue.
I search for imprecise words,
to comfort but cause no pain,
study the people ahead of us:
They smile, clasp hands, nod,
deploy memories of dear old
What’s-his-name, promise to visit.
What do people say
on dreadful days like this?
How did it happen? At least
he’s in a better place.
Yes, that’s it. Say it like you mean it.
Above all, keep the line moving.