Charlie Vestal’s Memorial Service by Jennifer L. Knox

You’d show up in pajama pants and slippers
to dig ditches for the old boy at the mic.
He knew you’d always be an hour late, he says,
and then you’d have to go get breakfast
which took another hour, then another hour
to eat it. Laughter. “Tomorrow, Charlie,
please wear boots,” he says he’d beg. Some
cry. Look how many people wanted you safe
and dry. Old boy thanks us all and steps aside
for auntie, next in line, who remembers you
finally in your own apartment, getting it
together. Look how loved you were!
This place is packed! April was in the ER
with her daughter last night—she hasn’t slept
in 36 hours. “I had to come.” What a funny
way to meet someone: after they’re dead.
Your light’s still pulling grins from glowing
faces though it’s gone, slipped into the next
song. Later in the car, alone, I tell myself, “Be
kind. Be kind. Be kind. Be kind. Be kind.”
Jennifer L. Knox is the author of four books of poems. Her work has appeared four times in The Best American Poetry series as well as in The New York Times, The New Yorker, and American Poetry Review. The Los Angeles Book Review said of her most recent book, Days of Shame & Failure, “This panopoly of twenty-first century American human experience leaves the reader a different person.” She teaches at Iowa State University and is currently at work on a culinary memoir.