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Every day I wake up & get dressed for my own funeral

after Enzo Silon Surin

Some mother said to always wear a clean pair of underwear
in case of emergencies in which EMTs need cut off your pants,
and some other mother said dress like every outfit is your last

as if the funeral walks in lockstep. I iron wrinkles from my jeans,
shirts, and chinos. I shine my shoes. I spray myself with cologne.
The Star Wars socks indicate I have a morsel of personality.

But only on days when I don’t sink into a pair of sweatpants,
of which I own several of the same style in various colors.
Underwear still clean, but I’ve reclined into remote work,

mornings when I commune with other Black dads at school dropoff,
drawstrings cinched around our waists, shared longing for sleep
and a moment when we can leave our keys on a nail by the door.

We share a laughter devoid of glances over each other’s shoulders,
reapers in the background rubbing palms, eager to swipe scythes,
while I wear an Empire Strikes Back t-shirt with a grease stain.

Some mother would remind me of how much we never know
whom we might meet, whether death or a CEO with a job offer.
Another mother would remind me to starch and press the pall.

Truth is I wasn’t listening until Trayvon. Some dying undresses
every angle we groom and straighten in America; attire matters
little when a cop’s badge and bullet whittles all your niceties

down to whatever monster arises from the police report.
What I’m saying is the coroner won’t know I iron collars first
or that I wore sweatpants today after three days of slacks

or that my daughter says I look nice regardless what I have on.
That was never the point. Trimming my beard won’t unhitch
the casket affixed to my ankles. Salvation doesn’t nestle

in the Full- or Half-Windsor knot dimple around my neck.
The point is a mother ensured I cared enough to wash my ass
before I set foot in a world that will dirty my pleasantries

at every turn, and no home or store-bought remedy will resolve
certain blood stains on whites. Like I know, the other Black dads
know: laugh now, stash a suit in the closet for later. Some mother

is my mother; some mother is my mama; another mama
is my mama reminding me to lint roll dog hair from uniforms;
another mother straightens the tie and collar on her son’s neck

in the casket. I need deep pockets for all this dying I must carry.
I need a needle and thread for holes at the bottom. Another knee
creases the button down over my back. Another body dressed

in America: bloodied red, beaten blue, white chalk outlined.
When will it be my turn to don the brutality? If today is my day,
this country a custodian for my life story, sweatpants or dress,

I’m clothed for the description, death pulling at my seams.


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