The language of small talk kills me
when it has to walk with death.
What do your parents do?
My parents were professors.
My dad was a professor, but he retired, and then died.
My mom was a professor, but she retired.
My parents were professors,
but it is no longer the same kind of were,
(and to leave the were unencumbered by detail is to lie through omission.
To explain the difference is to walk the small talk
to the river of death,
offer it a drink,
My husband was an artist.
My late husband was never late.
An artist never dies.
My late husband, then, is an artist.
But, I mean…
a dead one.
Dead as a doorknob, but then
doorknobs are still here
and he is not.
So just dead-dead, then.
Like a regular human.
a late human.
A human who was never late,
but is now perpetually so,
because if I forget he is always late now,
for even a second,
he is suddenly alive in the small talk,
and the only way to set the conversation back on path
is to turn him back to artist ash,
which is to say,
the only way to fix a slip-up is to lead small talk to a river,
where it will lean it for a sip, get a drowning,
My late husband and I owned a shop.
The shop was gone before he was gone.
It’s closure was unrelated to his death,
but the sentence is misleading.
My late husband died, and I was in prison,
and they are not connected in the unfortunately obvious way,
but timelines are misleading
when all you have is tense.
When everything you’ve lived
The language of death kills me,
but not like kills me kills me, you know.
I’m still in the present.
I am half Indian, half Mexican.
My mom is Mexican.
My dad was Indian.
(But can someone be an ethnicity in the past tense?)
My mom is Mexican.
My dad is Indian,
a dead one now.
Dead and buried,
but not technically buried,
because he was Indian.
My dad is Punjabi ash.
He passed away. Passed over.
But not to a better place as you know it,
so please don’t say it,
because neither my always-early late husband,
nor my always-on-time late father
believed in god.
Not your god.
I mean to say, they aren’t in Heaven,
but if they were,
despite all small words that mislead to the contrary,
I’m dead certain
was anything but
via dead ahead
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