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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