“High School Reunion of the Dead”

Larger every year. Not just suicides or accidents now—no slight to you, Nicky or Doug or Jeanette—yeah, the ice is melted and your drinks are warm and the chicken, bad to begin with, turns rancid with envy or regret. Or, I know nothing, and apologize. The gas explosion that killed Paul happened so long ago, they’re joking about it at the other reunion that shrinks not just from death, but from apathy or rage or cynicism or just not enough of a story to tell so that big guy at the door who somehow has avoided getting a beer gut doesn’t stamp LOSER on your forehead as you enter. No, the Reunion of the Dead is picking up steam, is all steam, people arriving unannounced, escorted by Cancer in his top hat and prom tux so gaudy it’ll never go out of style. The Heart Attacks, stunned in their golfing slacks, still pressing the remote, hoping. At the Reunion of the Dead, the suicides are unfolding more chairs, welcoming and cooperative. They each sit at a different table to mingle. Two suicides, a crowd. If there’s a seating chart, I’d like to know. How’s the band over there? We’re all losers— it’s preordained. That might be sacrilege, but that’s what Marilyn—who left two religious communities and decided being a lay nun wasn’t quite cutting it so she cut it—said, and what does God have to say? On this side, someone just went to the bathroom and didn’t come back. We can’t even finish our clichés. We start them, and trail off. The bald, the fat, the gray, the wrinkled, the one boob job standing out, ha ha ha, no, we’re really having a ball over here. Nobody’s dancing. Everybody’s shuffling. The High School Reunion of the Dead recognizes everybody. There are no cliques, no jocks, no greasers. They’re planning on getting a volleyball game going in the gym, or maybe musical chairs. Cause of Death goes off on break. Irony sits down at the piano.

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About Jim Ray Daniels

Jim Daniels’ fourteenth book of poems, Birth Marks, was published by BOA Editions in 2013 and was selected as a Michigan Notable Book, winner of the Milton Kessler Poetry Book Award, and received the Gold Medal in Poetry in the Independent Publishers Book Awards. His fifth book of short fiction, Eight Mile High, was published by Michigan State University Press in 2014. A native of Detroit, Daniels is the Thomas Stockham University Professor of English at Carnegie Mellon University.