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Mennonite Funeral in Southwest Ohio

10 April, 2016: Mennonite Funeral in Southwest Ohio


by Thomas Dukes

Mennonite Funeral in Southwest Ohio

for Gayle King

On this November hill, once far away,
beside women's hair capped in devotion,
we stand bare as trees and outdoor hymns.

The lives of barns roll into each other
below this churchyard where our prurient eyes
measure the widow's silent life. This morning

strong people with backhoes and history
part the merciful earth, and the dead farmer
slips away from us, from all the autumn stalks

of work and prayer gathered in the county.
The preacher unfolds the day's passion, returning us
to glory where we never know despair,

rocking in the rhythm of the Lord,
with the Father and the Son, with the Spirit
we all feel, so polite and kind that

we have no choice but to disarm death
in the minute before we say Amen Amen
and shield our eyes from the cold sun.

Outside the church basement, we pilgrims,
so polite and kind, wait to eat and drink
the mysteries old women heap upon our plates.

We never ask what old women know of life,
the ground, or us. We raise our cups,
our children, our fear, as the women pass, smiling,

cousins of cousins, sisters, aunts, always willing
to give us more, while the farmers wait for coffee,
the next planting – wait for us to leave.

"Mennonite Funeral in Southwest Ohio" by Thomas Dukes from I Have My Own Name for It: Modern Poetry of Ohio. University of Akron Press, 2002. Used by permission of the author.

Thomas Dukes is a writer living in Akron, Ohio. A retired professor, he currently works as an interim administrator at The University of Akron. He has published a collection of poems, Baptist Confidential (Bluestem Press, 2007), and his poetry has appeared in Poetry, New Orleans Review, South Carolina Review, and many other journals. He is also author of nonfiction works (including a memoir) and fiction. He is owned by a dog, Jake, and a cat, Little Bit.


Write a poem concerning a ritual of a death you have experienced: calling hours, sitting shiva, a funeral, memorial service, burial, or a bereavement dinner.

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READ + WRITE: 30 Days of Poetry is a collaboration between Cuyahoga County Public Library and poet Diane Kendig. Our thanks go to Diane and the poets of Northeast Ohio who allowed us to share their poetry.