Dead Giveaway

by Susan McLean

Who’ll take my dead? I’ve carried them so long
my mind is swaybacked from their aching weight.
I can’t just cast them off. It would be wrong
to leave them in some shed, like unclaimed freight.
How could I walk away as Cathy’s smile
collapsed, as Brian gently said “Take care,”
and Grammy begged “Please, take me home now” while
I shut them in the dark and left them there?

I’ve jettisoned so much I took to heart—
the afterlife, belief in justice, prayer.
I’ll have to lay my dead down, too, I know.
After a party, when my friends depart,
I wash up, stow away what’s left, yet they’re
still here. The dead are always last to go.

Susan McLean teaches English at Southwest Minnesota State University. Her poetry collection The Best Disguise, which won the 2009 Richard Wilbur Award, was recently published by the University of Evansville Press.
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Published 16 March 2010