Sunday, March 31, 2024

Not Even Not Zen 347: Poem - Your Pyre

Your Pyre

Forgive me this flatboat;
I feel I have sinned against you
with this crap of logs and planks
but honestly, it was hard work. 
Your wife could not afford a longboat replica.
Worthy ships are expensive, my friend
and you did not save enough. 
This is as much as she and our crew could do.

Forgive this tarp for a shroud because 
we meant to get silk  
but they don't have it at the craft store. 
Anyway, I bought a bolt of linen 
and it didn’t quite cover you. 
You got to be kind of a big guy,
big guy, there at the end,
and you looked too much like a body last night.
So this morning we pulled out the canvas
from your shed.

The boat rental shack gave me no trouble.
Your wife was right about that.
The lady there sold me a tow line, too, 
no questions.
I think I could have been drinking
from an open bottle of whiskey while I paid
and not gotten that woman to care.

Like you asked, well, demanded,
we have loaded you up under the tarp
with all your worldly treasures
but not all, only the ones your wife said were okay.
Ceremonial sword, class ring, 
favorite watercolor painting, lucky cat figure, 
the gold coin, although I hid that from your wife
- look in your inside pocket if you can -
and two pennies taped over your eyes. 
You don't get your wallet in the afterlife, friend,
but I'm pretty sure you won't need it. 

Forgive this kerosene because you asked for tar.
Sure, your idea would work but straw doesn't stay dry
and tar is slow to paint on.
We did paint and paint for hours
but this is a pyre on the water, buddy.
We couldn't rent a boat that's good on the open sea
so the other boats will see us.
I added the cans of kerosene and hair spray
because we won't get many shots at burning.

Forgive your brother and me for almost dumping you
when we lowered your flatboat into the water.
We brought the right equipment, dammit, 
but this stuff is hard.
I almost got caught between boats by the winch
when the tow line pulled down, sudden-like.

Forgive your brother for yelling when I started to light up
because he wanted more distance between the boats.
I'm using an actual fuse for the kerosene.
Well, six of them and two waterproof clotheslines
because I may have to do this twice.
Anyway, be happy. I humored your wussy brother
like you always wanted.

And I only lit it once.
I’m surprised. 
Apparently, I know how to build a bomb, sort of,
and now all the painted tar looks great.
You had a good idea there, buddy.

I remember in high school 
when we were young and strong 
as we drank by a campfire. 
You talked about having a Viking funeral 
and I realized you had fixated on this
since you were about eight, maybe.
We had decades and decades to prepare
but this is as far as we got, man.

Your wife did bring me whiskey.
A whole bottle, bless her,
so I will sit and listen to her speak.
Your brother started cursing at us
but she revealed a pack of cigarettes,
just for him. And so we sit.
We listen.

Well, here come the police, man.
I see the flashing lights in the distance.
Forgive me if I don’t go down fighting. 
I’m not headed for Valhalla.
Anyway, it's just one car.
They don't even have a boat
but I see them waiting at the rental dock.
I think I’ll just let them laugh at me 
And berate me a little 
And I'll sit on this deck and listen to your wife 
as she explains to them in full voice
like the fucking Viking soprano 
you always said she was.

-- Eric Gallagher, 2024 for a friend

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