After The Father Has Died
Questions should be avoided
about the terms of the will
and whether cremation or internment
is the preferred state for his body.
Unless, of course, he was into that.
A cardboard box burial. A peach tree
planted on top. A coffee shop guitarist
hired to strum “Redemption Song.”
A child and ex-wife might look on
at the gathering of strangers.
Janet, let’s say, sick of the humanist funeral
and the moochers who play dumb
about the terms of the will.
She asks the celebrant, then the man
watering the peach tree about who
she has to see. No God. No priest.
No hippy spiritualist or yogi. And nothing
around but the nature of things. And questions,
of course, for the strangers, for Janet
and her fatherless child, for all of us still here.
She signals me into the bedroom.
The Polaroid laid out from college,
when as lovers the world was suspended
between the before and after.
I barely remember the goofy restaurant
or the endless plates of Oysters Rockefeller.
Yet there I am, with her, scored into the dueling
layers of emulsion.
She curls herself around the rectangular us,
asking me to join her in bed.
She says we can relive those years
and order trays and trays of iced oysters
and shuck and shuck and shuck.
She accuses you of being a reply-guy,
whether she’s scrolling through her posts
on social media or later in the bedroom
when you’re having sex & she’s saying
your name & God’s & you’re replying
with fuck & yeah. Afterward, you explain
that you like dialoguing with her, but she notes
that you’re a mansplainer & a second-rate
academic, full of the rhetoric of bullshit.
You want to respond, offer a point-by-point
takedown of why she’s wrong, misguided,
& why she sounds like one of your students.
Instead, you turn over in bed & load up
that chatroom app where you met her
& seduced her in a matter of hours.
You type her an apology & pledge to do better
& donate to a senior dog charity & be an ally
& march with her next weekend in the city.
She presses herself against your yawed body
& reaches for your phone & whispers fuck & no.
Christopher Linforth is the author of three story collections, The Distortions (Orison Books, 2022), winner of the 2020 Orison Books Fiction Prize, Directory (Otis Books/Seismicity Editions, 2020), and When You Find Us We Will Be Gone (Lamar University Press, 2014).