When they are being respectful, for various reasons,
gangsters don’t aim for the face, but the heart.
They get you where it hurts so that for your funeral,
you won’t be cremated, your casket won’t be closed.
Your family can hold your cold hand, weeping,
the wound hidden beneath your freshly drycleaned tux,
the one Uncle Vaughn was married in that he gave you
when it no longer fit him. And here we are, at your funeral,
aunts and mothers crying, your father unmoving,
his mouth like a crack in the pavement.
You always were getting into mischief, especially with girls,
your sister says in a way that makes us unsure how to answer.
She’s in outer space, this funeral an excuse for a bender,
three days bereavement to spend with the aliens. There is
a kind of joke here, even on a macabre occasion: She’s flying
saucered. Your sister is like an alien version of your sister.
Your Dad is still, his mouth like the thin side of a butter knife. Gangsters
aim for a leg or shoulder when they aren’t shooting to kill. Gangsters
don’t often shoot to kill, but to live themselves. Guns don’t kill
people, gangsters holding a gun to your heart—or to your head,
the ultimate disrespect—kill people. Your Dad’s frozen, his mouth
a tightrope wire tied taut between two tall city buildings.
Your sister says she’s going to the bar. That is not a euphemism.
She is taller, blonder, much more beautiful than you. Your sister
is an alien version of you. Your sister’s hands are forcing you
to type a poem—this poem. This is my suicide note, your sister’s
hands have you type. You ask her, wait, wait, mine or yours?
She shakes her head: she’s trying to concentrate, and you need not ask
any questions. She wants you to be afraid of her, to fear her Jameson breath
and her saintly aim. She might aim for the head, the brain.
The brain is the soul, she says. The brain is where the heart is.
Front page image by peteSwede.