The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Sidney Wade

The Undertaker


I dug a grave the other day.
I helped, I mean--two others dug

as well. The soil was sandy and
the grave lay under the broad shade

of an oak. Once the hole grows deep
enough, only one shoveler

fits in, so the others watch
and chat and then take turns. A wood

stork flew overhead as I rested.
Elegant in flight, of mournful

aspect on the ground, we call him
the Undertaker. And why,

I wonder now, do we name
the funeral director the same?

Because he literally takes
our spent bodies under the ground?

Into this cool, quiet place
I now prepare for someone else?

It smells good, this sandy earth.
I think I would happily end

my own mortal flight in this space.
Then again, the Undertaker

brings us all our babies, as we know.
Many believe the stork flies

human souls to their hereafters.
When I lie down in my final

field, I hope the avian spirit
of this Undertaker will accompany

me on my journey, as crickets sing,
night after night after night,

their fragile, million-voiced round.




SIDNEY WADE's sixth collection of poems, Straits & Narrows, was published by Persea Books in April 2013. Her seventh, Bird Book, is forthcoming from Atelier26 Books in  2017. She has served as President of AWP and Secretary/Treasurer of ALTA and taught workshops in Poetry and Translation at the University of Florida’s MFA@FLA program for 23 years. Her translation with Efe Murad of selected poems of Melih Cevdet Anday won the Meral Divitci Prize and has just been published by Talisman House.


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