I should have deadened the street with straw,
I should have stopped the bedroom clock
and stilled the doorbell chimes with crepe,
I should have brought him quinine bark,
exotic simples packed in teak,
I should have had Te Deums sung
with banks of candles, cloistered nuns
to say their beads before he died.
Before he died, he should have known
his son would hire muffled drums
,his son would shroud his house in black,
he should have known his son would find
the cassocked priests to chant his Mass,
he should have known the sable horse
and raven hearse would trundle past
the silent parks and shuttered shops.
I should have told him weeping men
would dim the street like mourning clouds,
I should have knelt beside his bed
and said in life we are in death,
I should have told him sons survive
to keep their father’s death alive.

Articles by Joseph Bottum

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