Threnody, with Grass and Saṃsāra

When the man who cuts our grass every two 
or three weeks comes by this afternoon,
he turns off his riding lawn mower

to chat. I'm not sure what prompts this
pause for conversation—perhaps the nearly
100-degree heat, or just because

whatever's on the brain has a way
of spilling out of the mouth, seeking
a listening. And that's how I come

to learn about his brother's death.
There's one in every family: oveja
negra notoria. You know how it is,

Joel says. All of us siblings cut
from the same cloth, and yet one of us
somehow takes some kind of wrong turn

and never reaches their full potential.
And yet this brother, no matter how down
on luck or perpetually drowned in his cups,

never lacked for friends. The way Joel
tells it, even people he met for the first
time acted almost like they knew him

from another life. Nearly seven
hundred people went to my brother's funeral,
says Joel, shaking his head. I've known

a few people like that too: old souls,
washing up here again among us after
having traveled so long. Each time, still

trying to figure out how to do it—how
to live this life, how to make amends,
perhaps do it better next time. Just like

all these plots where grasses grow
back, tall and thick and green, no matter
how many times the blade mows them down.


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