Mr. Ninda’s Business

Wheeling

his minivan along sun-baked

interstate—

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)