is steep, so breathing hard we sink down into a front pew,
while the pallbearers, in the rich black of 16th century
prosperity, step down into the sanctuary, easily balancing
her wooden coffin, whom we knew only in these last years,
whom we recognize but do not remember as the girl whose hair
flowed down to her waist and whose skirts reached her ankles.
A poet’s voice, the tape is old, telling us how we should think
about death, and we rise into the air sweetened by multitudes
of lilies and the choir’s evensong. At the reception, the prawn
and cucumber sandwiches remind us to be grateful and I confess
to the priest I no longer go to church. Why don’t you come to
Midnight Mass? he says. I can only think of tears. For whom?
For Majorie? For you whose ashes arrived in the post for whom
we did not sing? I saw how small the coffin was that held her.
Annette Barnes’ poems have appeared in Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, Great River Review, Stand, and other journals.