His Funeral

by Jeff Worley

My father was finally unconfused,
the noose of Alzheimer's snapped.
Around him the malodorous roses
and long shafts of lilies.

I squeezed his shoulder, patted it
like the flank of a favorite dog.
I knew this was a dumb, sentimental
gesture. I didn't care.

My sister said--the whole room listening--
that our father had gone now
to a better place. The funeral home
claque nodded like breeze-bent stalks.

I wished for a long moment my sister
was right, but then two men came
and closed the light from him.
His new roof screwed tightly down,

I could still hear him say, A better place,
Joyce? Show me the evidence. The organ
shook down dust from the oak beams.
Joyce sang loudly along on the first hymn

with the few people who'd come. In my head
I sang "Don't Fence Me In." Dad told me
he'd hummed this when the gates
of Stalag XI-B were flung open

and he hobbled out on makeshift crutches.
He was headed back to Kansas, its glorious
dullness and flatness, bars of sunshine
in his father's field, the amazing grace

of wheat and wheat and wheat.