Patricia Horn O'Brien

Funeral: For Us His Gold

January 24, 2018

after Gerald Stern

 

The insect was yellow with crumpled-black banded legs
        and shellacked back that would outlast us
        and wistful eyes from what I could discern on that trail
                between fields,
and we laid him out in the open air under a sky fast-blue with
                change, wedging
        a leaf beneath his triple-belted belly so he didn’t rest on
                plain dirt,
        and we placed two cloverblooms by his head and he was old
you said, could tell by how definite the stripes were, how
                complete
        the patterns bold and dark, almost engraved,
and he was beautiful in that pasture of thirty-three cows and we
                drank
        milk in the blaring heat and ate the cake you’d made. We
                were
        the only humans there—unholy-seeming things with two
                legs, dismal histories—
drinking and eating around his elegant husk,
        and from the furze, fellow insects rose, a frenzied static
                around our bodies,
while he remained in situ an unremitting yellow, the color more
        vivid, louder now that he was a remnant. Was color the
                purpose here?
Yellow had alerted us to him, and we took care
        with leaf and clover to make his bed.
The insect’s gold our togetherness, its death from which we fed.

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