Brian Spears is the poetry editor of The Rumpus and the author of A Witness in Exile (Louisiana Literature Press, 2011). He lives and works in Des Moines, Iowa.
Fw: sad news
A man you knew twenty years ago
has died. His wife has cancer
and cannot travel home
for the funeral. You may remember
he took you camping once, water-skiing
on the Pearl River, far enough
from home to drink beer,
far enough to think I didn’t know.
This is the third time I’ve forwarded
an email like this to you
and I know each time you see
the subject line, you think
“Oh God” (the only time you still pray)
“it’s Dad or Grandma.” I know this.
I do it anyway.
Not out of meanness.
What would I change it to? All the news
I get of people you knew when you
were one of us is of their deaths,
or that they’ve left the church,
lost faith after so many years.
Like you. Like the grandson
of the man in this email
who sinned at an inconvenient time,
and will watch this funeral alone
amid the congregation.
Like you will, when you come home.