The funeral was over. She was gone. Col stood apart.
We are here for you, the strangers said, taking his hands. He blinked away more tears. Everyone was saying the same. We mourn for you. We feel for you. We are here for you.
The bright Halloween sun gave no warmth. The graveyard was shades of green, each darker than the other. Nearby, mourners. In the distance, crows.
Thank you, he said, and tried subtly to let go of their hands.
No Col, one said, their firm cool grip gently tightening. We are here for you.
His heart slowed. Together they walked away.
The coffin was heavy and carried on shoulders, the men’s arms linked at the elbow. Their faces shone with sweat. At the door of the church they had to jostle their way though the onlookers and their umbrellas. It had started to rain again. The family followed, their faces streaked wet. The church had been full.
The rain was fine and persistent. People looked down the road as it curved round behind the town wall and disappeared towards the cemetery. A few women decided then not to go on, they turned left or right and into their houses, shaking their umbrellas and loosening their scarves. They closed the shutter doors behind them.
The procession disappeared into the distance as the single bell tolled, its echoes rolling along the narrow streets of closed shutters. Later, the smell of the rain on the dust still strong, the town would begin to breathe again and the people of the procession would return as individuals or pairs, freed from the magnetics of the dead.
They would drink coffee and tell quiet stories until the clouds cleared, as they inevitably would.
yesterday bright clothes in the summertime I cried
at the wedding of slightly known people found joy
it was her parents we knew
her parents our friends
in the church close thick heat
children playfully running
babies are crying for milk or for comfort
as he walks through the door the bride’s father is ready to burst
happy for him and for her and for hundreds
for hours we eat and we drink and we dance and we talk and we talk for hours
today dark sky dark clothes
thin rain falling
sudden sombre faces in shade
same people same church
same people in church
a deeper silence a heavier air
yet stronger in prayer
we say goodbye and god be with you
we say goodbye and god be with us
we say goodbye and god please help us
we say goodbye forever
Surrounded by his lovers.
On the Festival’s last day.