For Julian Ivey
In a time when the dead are forgotten
As quickly as yesterday’s news,
My father attends funerals
In coat, tie, and mirror-bright shoes.
This formality is largely gone now
When people gather to see off the dead.
They might come in workclothes,
Tee-shirts, overalls, and caps to cover their heads.
Not my father. A child of the cotton seed,
A mill worker himself acquainted with lint,
He nevertheless learned the meaning of honor
From mother and father with barely a cent
To their names but rich in knowledge
Of the connection between living and dead
And the obligation of the living to uphold
Memory like a torch by which to be led.
No matter the person’s station,
Whether or not he is kin,
Co-worker, employee, neighbor,
Man of renown or childhood friend,
My father never fails to show at church door,
Risking loquacious preacher and frisky bladder
To lift up prayer for those now gone
Because to him, unlike others, some things still matter: