Death of the Prodigal
by Sean Taylor

There he kneels, the old man,
Still, staring at the headstone,
Boring holes into the fresh patch of earth
Between the plastic hearts, wicker wreaths,
Flowers doomed never to die,
Perched on three thin metal legs.
I wonder, is his heart perched there
Among them, waiting for a strong wind
To push it away
To keep vigil at some other stone?

... Run, kill the fatted calf,
The one we've fed for such an occasion,
For the returning prodigal;
Cook it and bury it deep
Beside the resting child,
A feast for the damned
...

He rises, crosses the freshly-cut green
Growing between the graves;
I smile as he passes, and he tells me,
"He was my son, but he was a Philistine.
He was a Philistine, but he was my son."
As if it were my heart, I offer
My hand, a token, but he continues
Past, weaves between the stones,
Making a cross at each one, and like a prayer
Says again, "He was my son..."

©1994 Sean Taylor