What Bread to Eat

by Taylor Mali

I don’t want to tell you what you already know
so I won’t tell you you’re going to die.
Even so there was a time
when such a revelation
would have felt a curse
my mother told me not to cry,
that she, not I, would be the first
to die, which only made things worse.

And someone here will be the next to die.
This, too, must come as no surprise.
But this isn’t a poem about the death
of that person the next in this room to die
this is about something else instead: the very last
one of us here to join the dead.

He or she who outlives the rest.

When that day comes and may it take its time!
by then who will care or even know we all once met,
gathered to share stories, rhymes, wine, and bread?
The rest of us all dead, except you:
the last one to go.  When that day comes
who then will know?

I say we will.

We will be waiting for you in that other place
to do what we are doing now, face to face,
with whatever wine the dead have to drink,
what bread to eat.  We will greet you and say,

Welcome.  Come and eat.
And take, at last, your empty seat.