A Black Cat Crossed the Road I Was Born On

Benton, June Morning

So many have passed on.

The mailboxes keel over from the weight
Of the catalogues and almanacs
No one has claimed.

On my day off, I’ve thought
Of coming by with posthole diggers,
But Death knows my ass
From a hole in the ground.

The people on the roofs are drinking
But they don’t brew that beer anymore.
Death is no chauffeur,
Nevertheless, he holds it in the road.

When Death beats his child
Nobody listens.

For two bits I would pull over
And lay down in the long legs of the past,
But Death is two-timing me.

Death can lace his boots
Before you can spit.

He can get all the ham off the bone.

Some people I knew hired Death by the hour.
He brought in good money every week.

My mother used to beg,
“Son, don’t write about Death,
We’ll cross that ditch soon enough.”
I ask you to have respect for the dead.

This is the place alright,
Like a flower in the night
Death drifts over the garden
Of our shoulders,
Like a boat with no eyes,
No place for the oars, the hands.

Death has a high voice,
An auctioneer to oversee
All your worldly possessions.

He is selling a bed
That belonged to your father,
He is coming in low,
Dumping your brother’s boots
In the enemy’s field.

Death runs a little side show
And you always buy a ticket.

There is no doubt in my mind,
Death is a bad hog.

Death ties everything down with guy-wires.
It sends you a message every month
To keep you in the black.

The Church has a record of your birth
But Death keeps its own dossier.

When the moon is pulling its blood
From its many lovers,
And Death is caterwauling with the cold fish-
Bone in its mouth, shedding all
Its skins and secret light I, like you,
Set out a dish of milk.

Text: Frank Stanford, What About This: Collected Poems of Frank Stanford. Port Townsend: Copper Canyon Press, 2015
Image: Thomas Hart Benton, June Morning, oil on masonite, 1945, Cummer Museum of Art
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One Response to “A Black Cat Crossed the Road I Was Born On”

  1. Brandon Straun Says:

    Staggering. I am silent.

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