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Wednesday, May 15, 2013


by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

"The burial of the dead is Humanity 101."
Thomas Lynch, undertaker and poet, NPR, May 6, 2013

It’s messy when they die
in winter, he says. The dirt
is too cold to work with then.
I tell him I will consider this
when I die. Just give me two-weeks’
notice, he says, quoting a joke,
and it occurs to me humor
must be an unwritten
prerequisite for a grave digger.
I ask him what he thinks
about the recent uproar in Boston,
no one wanting the bomber
buried in their own backyard.
Well, he says, I’ve always thought
we should have a special section
for the politicians. We could put
him here with them—in a place where
we let the dogs run.
In the space before I laugh,
I remember the story
the undertaker told about how
in the middle ages they considered
suicide the ultimate crime.
But since you can’t punish a dead man,
they took out their ire on his corpse
and buried it at a crossroads
to be trod on forever. He said,
“If we do not take care of dead humans,
we become less human ourselves.”
The man next to me says,
“You know, I give every person I bury
the gravedigger’s promise.”
We are almost to the cemetery gate.
“I say, I’m the last person who’s ever gonna
let you down, and the last one
who’ll ever throw dirt on you.”
He laughs a laugh so real
I can smell the earth thawing in it.

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer’s poetry has appeared in O Magazine, in back alleys, on A Prairie Home Companion and in her children’s lunch boxes. She is a parent educator for Parents as Teachers. Favorite one-word mantra: Adjust.