The Wake

The Wake

By Gabrielle Blair


No fancy funeral home with polished floors and polished knobs,

and undertakers in undertones, and soft-spoken mourners in subdued lighting – where money speaks.

Theirs is outdoors – the street is closed.

Plastic chairs in rows on cobbles – familiar faces –

the village folk of Six Corners face the bike shop’s open doors;

where a shiny, wooden, bouquet-covered casket fills the small space,

bicycles and bike-parts are removed.

I choose a bunch of white chrysanthemums and opt for a red ribbon,

not the offered black.

Shyly, out of place among the family who line the walls,

red-eyed his wife receives my token and with a nod, shakes hands

as do the others pressed together, seated by her side.

The crowd outside looks in.

Abel was always there.

He’d wave a greeting as I passed, my bicycle bumping over cobbled stones.

How many flats and perished tires he’s changed?

He gave away tricycles to the little ones.

It won’t be the same.

Abel’s no longer there.

I muse about community, tinged with longing.

There are many miles between me and my folk, who seldom visit.

We foreigners love to tell

how meaningful the family is to Mexicans.

Who will mourn me when I die?

Crowding the road on plastic chairs,

it’s twilight and a sea of faces look in,

strangers to me,

but not to white-haired Abel, gentle Abel with ready smile,

once a fixture at the Seis Esquinas bike shop,

they’ve come to bid farewell,

for Abel was one of theirs.


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