The Shortest Distance
Perhaps the dead long for
light, long for the sky and stars.
Why we fold them in boxes, shelve them neatly in rows
six feet beneath a world they lived long enough to die in,
I do not know.
I thought as a child that the hell-bound had it easy,
already down there, not much distance to go.
Those in limbo could rest awhile, stretch their bones
back into the earth and fashion new lives from memory;
live ten thousand lives in dirt and darkness.
But who can help those deserving heaven?
Even the statues turn away; angels with eyes lifted
or heads bent in prayers for the living because soon enough,
our turns will come. They try not to hear the dead who are good
tossing in their graves with desperate talk: Which way is up?
Was that a crow this morning?
Because the good are perfect, they are not tortured
so they forget themselves. They lie with the damned
and those left to wonder, who try to give directions with talk of love
and light, the shortest distance between ground and sky. Remember God?
Those in waiting ask the good who, dumb as dirt, stagger for the answer
to a god too distant to wake the dead.
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