“Are You Morbid?”
I spoke to morticians on the phone each day
as though I ran a helpline for those who knew
too much about grief to feel it. Some
sounded like timid strangers in a quiet room
as they rattled off their litanies of names.
“Melody Anderson,” one would say,
“age sixty-four, went to be with the Lord
at St. Mary’s Hospital,” not stopping
to joke—as we in the newsroom did—
Jesus must have been waiting in the ICU,
resting with a post-op morphine drip in the next room.
Funeral directors found nothing funny—
their job to comfort survivors,
mine to get words right: names,
children, spouses, special friends.
I talked to plotters as though we were
intimates ourselves, mourning over
mass graves covered in newsprint
black. One brought me a Christmas tin
loaded with cookies the other reporters
wouldn’t touch. I ate plenty,
not part of the press at times like this,so much as customer service.
Ace Boggess is the author of two books of poetry: The Prisoners (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2014) and The Beautiful Girl Whose Wish Was Not Fulfilled (Highwire Press, 2003). His novel, A Song Without a Melody, is forthcoming from Hyperborea Publishing. His writing has appeared in Harvard Review, Mid-American Review, RATTLE, River Styx, North Dakota Quarterly and many other journals. He lives in Charleston, West Virginia.