Uncle John

by John Riley

He had decided to leave
a generation before the morning he didn't
rise, still fully clothed, paint-splattered boots
unlaced, stretched on the bed as though
after decades of his veneration death had lifted
his obese body and placed his head on the pillow.
His bed was always alone though I like to think,
even now, decades later, that on one night
he was joined by a fellow laborer, perhaps
the thin Alejandro with his eyes sad the way
the morning light was sad across the soft body
as the hearse driver and his own thin helper strained
and grumbled, and that they, my uncle
and Alejandro, lay on the bed
that was not yet a deathbed and he
who gave me his name allowed
his calloused hands to be held and his lips
to be kissed and our name to be whispered
a last time.