At The Bonehouse

by Jack Bedell

It all seems so tidy watching
my father hand over the last check,
white concrete and marble doors
shining all around him.

Like this it is decided.
One day I’ll be buried
above ground.
                          My father smiles,
some adult pressure relieved,
some burden of ambiguity sealed.

Five Bedells choose their spots—
mine, upper right corner,
farthest from the water that pulls
at everything here until it’s gone.

I read my name in brass—
                   Jack B.
thinking the while of playing the rain,
of warm south Louisiana water,
thinking of how that water turned
cold in my clothers and hair.

Upper right—good choice.

But something in the caramel of the brass
reminds me of ground,
of what I will never know here.

In Texas, they do not tax themselves
with bonehouses. They return to the elements.
In Arkansas and Mississippi,
people have proper grave stones
to be toppled by frat boys,
plots to make love upon
under moon and dry skies.
Even in north Louisiana
people are eated by beetles
the way it was meant to be.

Not here, though.
Upper right corner — I will never know,
the completeness of ground,
of travelling through earthworm
and robin, of being stewed
and returned to life by the slow,
consuming burn of water.

Jack B. Bedell was born and raised in south Louisiana. He earned his B.A. and M.A. from Northwestern State University in Natchitoches before attending the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, where he earned his M.F.A. He now teaches at Southeastern Louisiana University where he serves as Editor of Louisiana Literature. His first book, At the Bonehouse, won the 1997 Texas Review Prize, and his chapbook, What Passes for Love, was the winner of the 2000 Texas Review Chapbook Competition.

from At the Bone House (Texas Review Press) © 1998 by Jack B. Bedell. Used by permission of the author.