My uncle Pat died
as men will do
and I wept
because there was nothing else.

But his name is my name
as his death is my death
and his children and widow
own my tears
as much as I do.

I told my mother
not to speak ill of the dead
and she told me
not to speak ill of God
but both were to blame here,
partners in a crime
against a man with whom I never shared a word.

Both had wronged me,
and his daughter of 16 tender years
and maybe it was for her that I wept.
it was for my mother,
with the same serpent nestled to her breast.
it was for me
and the quiet, hungry thing
that eats my future,
my family,
and this man,

who will never tell me stories
of my green homeland
or my grandfather
and the woman who seduced him.
All I know now is that it is
not fair that he should die,
even if he was a coward and a fool,
not fair that he should die,
if he were alone and unloved
(and he was not), even then.

No matter how many times it happens,
in a school or a prison,
in a foreign war
or to my uncle who I never knew,
it is not fair.

Not fair that we should have something
so sweet and have it taken from us,
not fair that we should love breath so dearly
when it’s loss is never in question.
Not fair that a man
who drank and played and loved
and handed out silver dollars
to his nephews and nieces
should be laid in the ground
and be nothing more
than a memory and food
for the grass.

My uncle Pat died
as men will do.