Cemetery Portraits

Uncle Ned
went to bed
on a Sunday at a quarter past eight.
Come the new dawn
and he was gone,
well on his way to meet his fate.

Aunt Caroline
in the springtime
took a walk out in the pouring rain.
When they found her
it had drowned her—
she would never see the sun again.

Uncle Herman
delivered a sermon
of fire and brimstone at the people’s church.
He expired
preaching hellfire;
now he’s six feet underneath his perch.

Uncle Jordan,
he was hoardin’
used towels in an old cedar chest.
Then forgotten,
they turned rotten,
resulting in a pneumonic blood test.

Grandma Judy
saw it her duty
to clean the fireplace every night.
She climbed in higher
above the fire
and discovered the flue was much too tight.

Grandpa William
made a million
counterfeiting during World War II,
but he’d gambled,
was left in shambles,
and died penniless and destitute.

Cousin Billy
and Cousin Lilly,
they were twins who never got along.
They often held contests
to leap downstairs farthest
’til they threw themselves down too headlong.

Auntie Jane,
she went insane;
she saw faces coming through her walls.
Kept her bromide
by her bedside,
dropped dead of fright one evening in the hall.

Uncle Ryan
always tryin’
to fix the fences on the family farm.
Across the pasture,
the bull came faster
and inflicted its last fatal harm.

[Inspired by Tom Waits’ “Cemetery Polka” and  Tom Lehrer’s “Irish Ballad.”]

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