This city is full of the dead

(I’m told by the living).

The Irish know their dead well,

6000 years of skeletons and coffins

and unmarked graves,

according to the living.

 

Here I am, alive in Dublin

drinking tea and listening to church bells

resounding like drunken teenagers

from a Cathedral older than my family name

sitting amongst the dead.

 

What good is life if we avoid

familiarizing ourselves

with the ninety-nine names of death?

She walks hurriedly around here, I think.

Death scurries from convent to church to pub

in order to meet her demands.

 

I’ve often considered inviting her in,

the poor thing,

for a cup of tea, or a pint,

or whatever it is death enjoys.

It’s not that I’m insane or anything.

 

There’s just something about this hallowed city

where the living manage to keep track of the dead

the way stockbrokers keep track of markets

and musicians keep track of the beat

that makes me pity death. She seems lonely

but far from idle. I sit here drinking tea

 

wondering if death would accept my admonitions

and take a nap in my bed,

curled up like a snail in a shell,

as the church bells howl

and construction workers laugh

above a slab of concrete where a man was shot,

whispering in her sleep about her many tormented lovers.

 

by Keene Short

Keene Short is a life-long resident of Flagstaff, Arizona. He currently studies English and History at Northern Arizona University, and when he is not writing or reading, he hangs out with folk singers and wayward preachers at local coffee shops.

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