Riding in the New Hearse by Shuly Xóchitl Cawood

Do you want to ride tomorrow
in the new hearse
he asks me just before
he turns off the light.

This death thing is a daily part
of our married life.
Caskets, urns, insurance
work into a lesson
for the living.

Tomorrow the hearse will still be new,
known for what this car is mostly known for:
paddle shifting, those leather seats, lumbar support,
the smooth ride, the easy breathing of the engine.

The hearse will not yet have carried the old,
the shake-your-head young, the tiny ones
whose possibilities have just begun, who teach
to never ease a person’s pain
with the beastly words at least.

Tomorrow, the hearse will still be emptied
of its grief, which it will learn to carry
down the grey ribbon of these lonely roads.

And tomorrow, my love will say let’s go,
and I’ll lean back in that passenger seat
and drive with him on the streets we know
will never be the same.

We’ll roll down clear windows, let in some sky,
steer the hearse toward tomorrow
as if it’s any other
extraordinary
ride.

Shuly Xóchitl Cawood is the author of The Going and Goodbye: a memoir and the story collection, A Small Thing to Want. Her poetry collection, Trouble Can Be So Beautiful at the Beginning, won the Adrienne Bond Award for Poetry. Learn more: http://www.shulycawood.com

About the Guest Editor: Dennis Etzel Jr. (he/him) lives with his spouse Carrie and their five boys in Topeka, Kansas where he teaches English at Washburn University. He has numerous books, including My Secret Wars of 1984 (BlazeVOX 2015) which was selected by The Kansas City Star as a Best Poetry Book of 2015. His work has appeared in Denver Quarterly, Indiana Review, FUGUE, Puerto del Sol, 1913: a journal of poetic forms, Tarpaulin Sky, DIAGRAM, and others.

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