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