Ghost Sonnet (for Bronson)

By Michelle Betters


When you died everyone came home

to fill up the church. We spilled over

into the parking lot. After the service

we went to Whataburger because it was Sunday.

           There was nowhere else to go. No

                         let me tell it straight this time.

First we went back to the house and drank

all the alcohol we could find because

though we had just stood in the pews singing

             (the way we’d been taught to)

that it was well with our souls, it was not.

It was Sunday. The liquor stores were closed.

Anyone who’s seen a river round here knows

there is no peace. You had died in a hospital bed

while the rest of us ignored each other's calls.

Sixpence None The Richer’s “Kiss Me” came on

             the radio. We ate cheeseburgers in our funeral

             clothes—all black against orange plastic

                          We were no longer kids; we were just drunk folks

                          counting the holes in a dead friend’s ghost.

We were punctuation marks in our own faithlessness

Each of your donated organs was a small salvation.

In this version of the hymn, Christ is the needle

            and God is the suture. This is how it is well.

You won't live forever, but you will live

a little bit longer in someone else’s chest.

You'll wear those shoes and I will wear that dress.

Michelle Betters works at Boston Review and teaches at Emerson College. Her poems most recently appeared in Queen Mob's Tea House and Cosmonauts Ave. She also writes about poetry for the Ploughshares Blog.