one day the dogs will be dead, too

for B.H.

the question is whether to attend the visitation
or the funeral
flowers or bones or meat cut from your shoulder
when the bloodwine spills to kneel and lap
and gather cracker crumb
cry, but never as much as the family
heads bent, singing through the hymnal echo
don’t think of your father
mother brother
he was a father, brother
the reverend called him
by his wife’s name, unexpected
and everyone laughed
your mother said she failed you,
not teaching you these words
don’t think of your mother
a memory: turning in the exam second
because you were afraid of standing first
in front of this sharp-witted slight man
who told you to carry a clipboard
people yield to the power of a clipboard
wishing you’d stood first