Aunt Joanne didn’t recognize me,
her skin soaked in booze
and cured with cigarette smoke,
her husband shaking in a blue suit,
trying to remember me, too.
There was cousin Rayme, lying
in the cheap brown coffin, his face
the color of French vanilla ice cream.
His death was so ridiculous, no one knew
how to roll it up and eat it. The thump
of his head off slick ice. Drunk. He
woke up dead. In a collage of pictures
there’s one of a teenage Rayme lounging
in a lawn chair, a can
of Budweiser in his hand. He looked
as happy as I ever saw anyone.
The best things about
some of our lives is
drinking beer in a nylon chair.
Me and Rayme once broke into
our great Uncle’s house
looking for a snub-nosed pistol
that was rumored stuffed in his mattress.
Unc was getting his feet sawed off
at the VA hospital. I was 16 and
Rayme was simply older. Together
because of Nanny’s funeral. That might’ve been
the last time I saw him.
Rayme wanted to sell the gun.
The man we called Cousin It.
He loved my father and used to
leave warm loaves of bread
in the sun porch door on random mornings
even though our house was
well off his ride home from the bakery.
He also giggled like a madman,
one of those guys you shake your head at.
Just another juicer from East Pittsburgh.
A man in a flannel shirt. My cousin Rayme,
who watched football at the Serbian Club
with a bunch of men who didn’t love him
but stuffed themselves into the only suits they owned
to see him lay there in a funeral home
under the Westinghouse Bridge
while the whole world passed by over-head.
Photo: Empty Budweiser Can