I was leading a workshop

that summer, on elegies and the poetry
of death. Perhaps it shouldn’t have come
as a surprise, yet I found I was surprised
—long-dead neighbors arrived and smilingly
took their places among others at the table.
They shuffled papers from folders, set out
their pens neatly on one side; some
began clearing their throats in a way
that sounded like they might not have
done that in a while. On the right,
Mr. Eduardo, who once was city engineer,
smoothed the lapels of his olive coat
and the silk square tucked neatly into
a breast pocket. And there were Nana
Doring and Tata Berting, who lived
in a brown house in the street directly
below ours. Her grey hair was like it always
was— slightly unruly but with a nice curl,
giving her an elfin look; his black-rimmed
glasses were as usual perched high on his nose,
which made him look a little like a solemn
owl. I could sense they were eager to read
poems to each other. It wasn’t cold or gloomy
at all in there: windows framed the brightness
of the season, and winding vines of orange
hummingbird trumpet flowers crept along
the ledge. I was both suddenly shy and quite
excited; then stricken with the anxiety
they would think I was such a fraud—
what did I know about death, after all?
I wanted to ask them what they thought
about all these metaphors; I wanted
to suggest a free write. At the end
of the session they came up to give hugs,
saying they enjoyed their brief time here.

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