Even at an early age,
she sensed her dependence on death—
how strokes had straightened her teeth

and suicides started her college fund.
So she felt duty bound
to pray for the dead—
slipping downstairs into the funeral home

her parents ran from the first
floor of their house—
her mother peddling floral displays
as her father effortlessly alternated

between sympathy and a soft-sell
of his top-of-the-line caskets.
At night, while they took inventory
and balanced their books,

she knelt beside marble slabs
in the basement and clasped the cold
hands of strangers—saying prayers
for the anonymous souls

stockpiled beneath her roof,
waiting to pay Charon’s fare.

:: Brett Hursey, in Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review #7 (1995)

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