Margin: Exploring Modern Magical Realism


The obituary clerk doesn’t give a shit what time you die.

She’ll type in 8:30 a.m. straight off the fax from

Dodson and Son’s Funeral Home. But she doesn’t care.

You’re just one of many names typed and typed

and retyped and edited for deadlines that day, names

that are becoming extinct, such as Thakla and Mavis.

The clerk’s wise to the falsified times of death. She knows

Death doesn’t wait a half-hour for coffee and donuts

to find the body and tag the toe. The town’s coroner though,

much like the clerk, motivates his mornings with dying names.

Even the undertaker is unaware of the tragic numbers

in which Christian names have come to pass, undetected,

despite recorders, clipboards and embalming fluids. But

the clerk catches them, formats them and buries them

on page two of the Daily Union, in Tuesday’s edition

with no bylines. No public notoriety pat on the back.

The clerk saves each name in a private journal and reads

from the list every night after work, aloud on a bench

to each passerby, pigeon or drug dealer who will listen.

I used to have a great aunt Creta, said the man with the dog

pooping in the grass. Veneda was my grandmother’s name,

said the lady waddling out her natural childbirth class.

The clerk recites her list from A to Z: Ada, Addie, Alma, Alta…

The Es take a while, …Edwina, Elma, Elsie, Elva, Erma …

By the Zs, the crowd promises the names of their first born.

Irma? the clerk says, looking up from her journal, pointing her pen,

like a teacher taking attendance, checking off each agreed name.

Verma, Vella, Idella,? How about Melba Levina, Ona, Rella?

j a s o n   l e e   b r o w n
s u l l i v a n ,   i l l i n o i s

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Rev'd 2005/01/26