The Funeral Director's Daughter
Gail Thomas

The Funeral Director's Daughter

Jars of ash from each she’s loved by
choice or blood wait on a shelf. Most were
sprinkled over water or under roots,
a pinch held back to mingle with her own
Missouri grit when the time comes.

She watched her father drape his arm
around shaking shoulders of strangers,
avert his eyes at delicate moments,
hold steady when the waves subsided.
More than honor and custom, she learned

to decorate graves on holidays, search for kin
in country towns with overgrown mounds,
to do what must be done.
She will wait by your bedside until
dawn breaks, until the last ragged
breath whispers yes,
yes, I am ready.

Gail Thomas

is the author of the poetry collections Odd Mercy, Waving Back, No Simple Wilderness, and Finding the Bear. Her poems have been widely published in journals and anthologies, including CALYX, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, and North American Review. Among her awards are the Charlotte Mew Prize from Headmistress Press, the Narrative Poetry Prize from Naugatuck River Review, and the Massachusetts Center for the Book’s “Must Read” award.