What if we carried our dead to the earth
in red wagons–the way my grandson
loads his with treasures. Destination unknown,
they are at home, rolling along behind him.
What if–instead of a coffin–we’d placed Sean
in a red wagon, kept him close till our hours of lead
had begun to pass–till we could bear to stroke
his bruised and swollen face, count his broken bones.
What if we’d cradled him in a soft blanket, pulled
him in his wagon on our walks by the river,
to our offices, and on visits to his sisters so
all of us had time to adapt to his new presence.
What if we’d covered his face. Whoever was ready
could lift the cloth, touch him gingerly, or even
cradle his head, mindful of his broken neck,
the scar beneath his strawberry hair where the doctor
peeled back the skin from his skull at the autopsy.
The bravest one of us could unwrap his left hand–
uncovered all night in the snow–to see if it was blackened,
if any of his frozen fingers were missing.
What if before we’d delivered him to the flames,
each of us had lain with him in his red
wagon, nestling with the brother, the son,
whispering or singing or lying in silence
waiting patiently for the time when we were
ready to embrace his body, then let it go.