Bearers march shuffle steps
over prairie sod. Awkward
weight, an ancient gravity,
tugs each one downhill
toward the final berth.
Legs ache against fists
that hold his body up
in cooling air under
broad-shouldered sky
these brief last minutes.
Each watches heels ahead,
eyes drawn down to measure
each step of the one ahead.
Tripping is the ultimate risk,
a last testament to the will
to remain behind before
setting down this burden,
closing eyes, releasing words
into a gentle breeze, then
turning back toward setting sun.
Only a stranger and his machine
remain behind to close rent soil
and send this one into memory’s mists
and fading grey photographs.

Richard Dinges Jr.