The Care and Feeding of the Dead

You've always wondered how the dead
eat and drink the offerings set out on the mantel

without spilling a drop; how they peel the rind
off fruit and pick the stringy membrane out 

from between their teeth. How do they sink into
the couch without a sound, turn the pages 

of a book or newspaper or seal an envelope
shut? You know they're near when your nape

feathers with the memory of their touch, or
when, in winter,  a room fills with the faint 

smell of jasmines or ylang ylang. One of them 
manages to call for a taxi promptly at 6 

without using the telephone; the driver, 
perplexed and then annoyed, finally drives away 

into the night. You've been taught not to worry about 
what they mean by lingering in doorways or returning. 

When they're ready to admit there's nothing more 
they desire here, nothing more they can or want to do, 

they'll prepare for gradual departure by tiptoeing around 
in your dreams until finally, one day, the room is only

a room, the ticking in your ears just the clock; the charred 
smell only someone in the kitchen burning the toast.    

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