Mr. Ninda’s Business

his minivan along sun-baked
mesas, sagebrush, and grazing
pintos, Mr. Ninda’s
business is death. Maynard Dixon clouds—
zaftig, cotton-white—
line the Texas panhandle.
He’s not the grim reaper. He’s
a funeral director, a travel agent
arranging trips
to the next world.
Along I-40 heading
west, 22 miles outside of Amarillo
a red-tailed hawk
perches, clawing
to a cottonwood tree.
Wind-weary, its branches bowing
like a cypress in Ptolemy’s
Geography. An undecipherable augury.
Is it a hawk or Horus? He places
the funerary mask
on his leather car seat, checks on his passenger.
Maquillage intimately
rouges her drawn face.
This is Honora. Just Nora she’d insist
when introductions were made. Her laughter crests
like a wave, washing
over a sand of shag carpet, unlucky
bingo cards, smoke-filled taverns.
A toast: Slainte. A ritual: the clinking of glasses. Vodka
slushes on the billiard table’s
red felt. Calling
the corner pocket, she sinks the 8 ball. A clean shot.  
Stoli catches in her parched throat. She chokes.  
Her lowball glass shatters.  
He lingers, shows mercy. Gloved fingers circle
her claddagh ring and shamrock bead rosary. Her hands clasped
together. A gesture of pleasure, her circumstances
for the gods to judge,
to bear.

Originally published in PoemMemoirStory, no. 14 (January 2015)