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Meredith MacLeod Davidson

About A Funeral

 

I. Prologue

Mom had a shoulder injury

or something unresolved with Nana—not sure.

They gave her painkillers

but she said the wine was more effective

so she left the bottle by the sink.

Dust collected for nine months

before I delicately peeled back the seal

and poured the bottle’s contents into my palm.

 

II. The Surviving

All this business about a funeral.

I was subpoenaed by the family to appear.

Dad practices law

but turns a blind eye to some things,

like how you’re not supposed to spread ashes at a state park.

He wants to be a park ranger when he retires

but never will the way this family spends money:

Therapy bills

+

Total Wine charges

and now the youngest daughter is restricted to state schools

she’ll never get in.

I buy a $3,000 dress to honor the dead

and charge it to Dad’s credit card.

 

III. I’m Reflecting On Sex Instead Of Death

I’m flying.

The girl next to me is absorbed in a song,

whatever is playing behind her Beats.

I watch her mouth the words and

I admire her lips and

I wonder if she’s aware and

I admire her lips so much and

not because I want to kiss her but

because I wish I could have them and

then maybe when I smirked at men at bars they’d pay more attention to

the way my lips are set and maybe they’d fantasize about me going down on them,

which is such a flattering notion, despite there being the fact that

the last person who liked the way my lips were set

 

turned out to be an emotionally unavailable misogynist who eventually determined

I was unworthy of him based on socioeconomic class status.

He wouldn’t grace me with a fuck but suggested

perhaps I was more suited to take him in my mouth,

but only between the preapproved scheduled hours of 1 to 5 p.m. on Thursdays

and anytime after 3 a.m. on Mondays and when he told me loved to skullfuck

intelligent girls, I believed I was intelligent.

I was predisposed to believe there was a payoff beyond the abuse.

 

IV. Biblical Influence

I’m flying.

The woman in front of me is reading a book.

It is titled “Daniel in Exile” and is clearly about Daniel in the Lion’s Den,

which I remember from Sunday School, which Mom took her daughters to dutifully

every Sunday, until that obsession consumed her raw

and I think the last time she went to church was Easter, though it might have been

more recently, for appearances.

The woman in front of me is reading a book,

and the book reminds me of Mom’s neighbors’ six-year-old son Daniel

and I wonder why those neighbors chose to name their son Daniel,

knowing the local elementary school’s mascot is a lion.

And I wonder if they were trying to say something with that,

in their view from across the street,

maybe they were trying to prove that the Bible is all a metaphor

and one so easily replicated as from the politics of a kindergarten classroom.

 

V. Aggravating A Flight Attendant

I’m flying.

I took so many anxiety pills for this flight.

I’m prescribed those, but I never carry them in a bottle.

I kind of hoped that TSA would stop me and ask to see a prescription

I didn’t have. My motions are slow and fluid so

I spilled my ginger ale on the flight attendant,

and she was so kind to wipe the soda off my jacket,

but she wasn’t very gracious and I could tell she was pissed.

 

VI. Saturday

I don’t remember much until the pills wear off.

I stood in Mom’s kitchen memorizing the verse posted on the fridge:

In the streets they cry out for lack of wine;

All joy has disappeared and cheer has left the land

                                                ISAIAH 24:11

Now it’s Saturday and the priest shut everyone in this room

where we can see everyone entering the church but they can’t see us.

[no break]

 

Mom is arguing with the priest and the priest is quietly angry because

Mom is trying to make this Catholic service as Protestant as possible

Nana is arguing with her son because he brought props to use in his reflection and

Nana thought that was tacky.

Cousin Carol is telling me how she got drunk at Nana’s wedding.

She thought the champagne was ginger ale

and told everyone there was a witch in the bathroom,

when it was really just a black woman.

But Cousin Carol was six and this was the 1950s

so the story is funny not racist.

 

VII.  The Service

I laughed my way through most of the service.

It was fine because Nana didn’t notice

and Mom didn’t notice

and Dad didn’t care because he knew I was laughing because

he read a Psalm but announced it as a Palm but didn’t realize

and he’s the most devout of any of us and he had one job and fucked it up.

But everyone else in the church is six or more pews behind us

and the shudder of my shoulders looks like sobbing.

 

VIII. The Reception

Mom’s best friend from college approaches the receiving line with a flask

and spikes two cups of punch and places them on the ledge behind Mom,

even though the priest said no alcohol at the reception.

I shake everyone’s hand and smile warmly

and everyone remarks to Mom how lovely I am.

 

VIIII. The Dinner

Cousin Corby tells us how he feeds his poodle beets

and Mom orders another bottle of wine

with the expectation that I will share this too with her

and I do.

 

X. Return Flight

I am flying.

I order a ginger ale

and prepare myself

for the next death.

 

 

Meredith MacLeod Davidson is a poet and writer from Virginia, currently based in Scotland, where she lives with her partner and cat. Meredith has work published or forthcoming in Cream City Review, Poetry South, Lone Mountain Literary Society, and elsewhere. She serves as senior editor for Arboreal Literary Magazine, reader in fiction for The Maine Review, and as co-editor of From Glasgow to Saturn, the literary journal at the University of Glasgow, where she recently earned an MLitt in Creative Writing.





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