William Heath

Aureli’s Funeral

He dies suddenly, cancer
of the lungs, although the way
he spews blood across the room
makes them think it might 
have been his heart.
He smoked, like most Catalans,
spent his life breathing the bad
Barcelona air.  Once he showed us
Roman ruins near his summer home.

The parking lot beside the dry
riverbed being turned into a highway 
for the Olympic games is littered
with used condoms.  Two widows
show up for the official service
and only the man in the box of
polished wood holds his tongue.

Outside I watch a trim young man
in tight-fitting T-shirt and shorts
working hand over hand
up and down the huge stones
of a church tower.  He uses 
a small black bag strapped 
to his back to dip his fingers
and select the next grip.		

	The public building,
designed to process multiple funerals,
has twenty-nine rooms for close
relatives to gather and receive what
consolation can be offered while 
packed together in a cramped space.
Everyone talks at once, somehow
the words seem to help.

William Heath has published two poetry books, The Walking Man and Steel Valley Elegy; a chapbook, Night Moves in Ohio; three novels: The Children Bob Moses Led (winner of the Hackney Award), Devil Dancer, and Blacksnake’s path; a work of history, William Wells and the Struggle for the Old Northwest (winner of two Spur Awards); and a collection of interviews, Conversations with Robert Stone. His website is www.williamheathbooks.com