The Funeral


The thunderstorms of August,
I am no longer safe.
The ground cleaves,
each stone is an unplugged mouth,
each row a choir confessing.
I am afraid, descending darkly
the stone stairs into the garden's thorns.

Out of rain's heavy stage curtains
the sound of hoofbeats
on the cobblestone road from town.
Somewhere a truck backfires.

Hoofbeats?
And the remnants of the road
visible only where worn tar
reveals paved-over stone.

Out of the parted folds of rain
comes the black horse, the landaus
and the horse-drawn hearse.
A widow bustled in black.
The gilt and ribboned badges of mourners
and the undertaker in stovepipe hat.
The glistening livery of a dozen carriages.

Under the canopy,
in quick succession: the eulogy,
the parson empties a pouch of earth,
the daughter places a rose,
the box nailed shut.

Later the stone on a wagon
upended and roped into place.
The name not near enough to read.
Then thunder again
and through the rain, the sun.

A truck door slams in the 20th century.
Two men in yellow slickers
appear like flames following the dark.
And this past, ever-parting
hoofbeats on the road to town.


Bruce Hunter, Two O'Clock Creek: Poems New and Selected, Oolichan Books, 2010.