Instructions for My Funeral
At my funeral, the coffin will be of plain, planed walnut, and it will be dropped carelessly into a shallow hole in the dirt beneath a spreading tree. Tulip, white oak, catalpa, sycamore—these will be acceptable species. Apple. Tupelo. Cedar. Cherry. Let the horses graze over the spot, where the grass will grow richly green, well-manured from below. Let there be feasting in the field—cornmeal mush with syrup boiled from the woods nearby, blackberries that guests may gather themselves, each scratch across the backs of their hands a caress of memory. Cups of pawpaw flesh with pudding spoons. Bourbon, fresh maple sap, and complex red wine to drink. Each guest may fry a fish, which they may hook and gut themselves. There will be worms aplenty. Fires for roasting will be scattered about, and there will be an iron kettle simmering with river water for tea that smells of limestone, frogs and thin blue smoke.
Set up the tables in the old barn, gray-weathered planks balanced on hay bales and spare tractor wheels. The plates and glasses, the utensils and napkins, will not match. Blue dishes and white, one with a flower off-center and one with a red bird, this one bordered in gold, that one dark green with a crack. Clear pink glass. Gray-blue plastic. Shadow purple crockery. Thunk and ring them, and never let speeches call the throng to order. There will be no public prayers, though offerings of private thanks may be permissible. Guests may relieve themselves over there among the trees.
No one will wear black. Green, blue, and brown will be appropriate. Any flowers in the men’s hair, or tucked in the folds of women’s skirts, or between their toes in their sandals, will be wild, shy or flamboyant as the bearer prefers. Rue anemone, trillium, butter-and-eggs, clover, dandelion, coneflower, poison ivy, and long strands of green algae will all be appropriate. When darkness falls, there will be candles and kerosene lamps, foxfire and the waxing moon for light. Music will arise spontaneously as guitarists, flautists and percussionists are moved. Dancing will follow as dancers are moved. There will be readings of cummings, a paean to Wordsworth, guests will come to understand that beauty is truth, truth beauty, that someone kindly stopped for me, that that has made all the difference. Guests will experience a tighter breathing and zero at the bone. Guests may sleep together in the loft in the straw.
In the morning, there will be a cacophony of chirruping, and swallowtails will rise from the weeds and float toward ironweed. Guests will ride back to their lives and will be asked to forget that the deceased ceased. Let the him that was me beat in their hearts and let their hearts beat the stronger for having heard of him. May they ever feed like pigs in his honor. May they remember him in their sleep.