How to Behave when Dead


A notorious tease, he may pretend
not to be aware of you.
                                       Just wait.
He must speak first. Then
you may begin to praise him.

Remember:
sincerity and naturalness
count for more than wit.
His jokes may strike you as
abstruse.
                  Only laugh if he does.

Gifts?
They say he's mad for art,
but whether in the melting
elegiac mode of, say, this
Vase of Poppies
or, turning the mirror
to his own face, a bronze skull
goring on a snake–
that is a matter of taste.
In any case, the expense
is what he notices.

What to wear.
                        Some authorities
still insist on black.
But really, in this modern age,
your best is all that is required.


Tom Disch, Yes, Let's: New & Selected Poems, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989.