Death Reels

Men’s faces floated beneath grey fedoras,
cigarette smoke shadowing their heads
as they entered the lobby of my building
through the side door of Mulligan’s
Funeral Home. Candles cast puppets
on hot summer nights, as painted harlot’s lips
and tangerine cheeks popped like plums
from satin-upholstered caskets. In daylight

we, the privileged of 615, dared Julie Lundy from 621
to peer through a chink in the cellar door to see
Mr. Mulligan suck fluids from the dead
through straws, sew their eyes shut with chicken sinew
and starch their hair into
cotton candy. Death had an orange glow.

In school we lauded eleven-year-old
Beata Maria Goretti slashed dead
rather than render her apple-butter purity.
At home my father sang of Kevin Barry
who in a lonely Brixton prison
high upon a gallow’s tree
gave his young life for the cause of liberty.

Dear God, didn’t anyone want us to live?

Julie threw up by the firehouse door
her father, his arms plumped on a pillow,
looked out like Gabriel from his first floor window. Liz Dolan, a former English teacher and administrator, has published poems, memoir and short stories in Philadelphia Stories, New Delta Review, Natural Bridge, Illuminations, and numerous other journals.

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