As a Doornail

By Sean Johnson

The dead have sad faces. Just listen
to their sighs, accordions without zing,
like the wheeze of an empty ketchup bottle.
Listen how they click their fingernails
together—a sound often mistaken
for rain at cemeteries. Yes, being
entombed must be a drag, as much fun
as a bat guano and liverwurst sandwich.
But some things, we know, are worse—
having your pants fall down in church,
performing bare-handed elephant vasectomies,
being alone for long periods of time.
A guy in North Dakota has the formula
for eternal life scribbled on the back
of an old Sports Illustrated, but he won’t
be Fed-Exing it to anyone soon,
won’t be sending out any mass e-mail
that says forward to ten people, or else.
Who wants to live forever anyway?
Think of all the taxes you’d have to pay.
I feel bad enough for my shih tzu-poodle,
Spunky. A canine Methuselah, she barks
at a passing squirrel and sounds like
she’s hacking up a dinosaur egg.

Meanwhile, the dinged-up microwave
of mortality continues to whirl, the world
a thin paper plate, and we the steaming heaps
of Spätzle that invariably end up in Tupperware.

So let the rains waltz upon the rooftop.
So let the windshield wipers wave goodbye
and the moon bark all night long
at the neighbor’s dog. No freakish light
bursting forth from the tomb, no dead lover
Patrick Swayze-ing back into existence.
A closed casket just means the mortician
botched the job, had to construct a new noggin
out of paper-maché and cotton swabs.

Pay your respects to the third cousin of the deceased.
At the after party, try the potato salad.