Sarah Ann Winn

Funeral FAQs

Question: Should we play a hymn when viewing the folded flag?
Answer: Forgiveness is not a window full of fingerprints wiped clean.

Question: What arrangement is best?
Answer: Garish flowers, for him. Obvious, not associated with youth, with lace. Order seasonal. Perhaps mums splayed out in firework patterns. Or form a waving row, mimic an empty pod filled with pebbles after the seed is gone.

Question: How can mourners hold it together?
Answer: Hearts will turn with difficulty like wheels over too large gravel, will go on, despite fear of broken axels, fear of being stranded in an unfamiliar drive after midnight.

Question: When does the funeral director approach the bereaved with the wedding band, and tell the story of the clever string trick to work it free after sixty years of use?
Answer: It may arrive with the bill, just after visiting hours, but before the graveside service. Paperwork will signal the mandated return to normalcy.

Question: (Partially obscured by white noise) graveside?
Answer: The muffled drive to the index of souls, where the grass is mathematically mowed, best to arrive at equally timed intervals, look for anniversaries, mourn again the first time you forget.

Question: Why do you seek the living among the dead?
Answer: It gives the living something to do.

Question: What is it like, after?
Answer: All the wrong words. We know without knowing, remember taste, can sometimes taste the scent from the mums, can hear the salt drying on your cheek.

[Commuters on their way to work blast music through open windows.]
Question: Who is speaking?
Answer: Names, even engraved, fade with time.

Question: Is there any wisdom you can pass along about the future?
Answer: A good game of gin rummy, the feel once a pebble is removed from a shoe.

Question: (Obscured by garbled voices)
Answer: Yes, every day.         Another Answer: No, at least not that I can recall.

Question: (Spoken above noise of shuffling paper in a paperless room) Are you still here?


Note: This reprint first appeared in the author’s chapbook, Field Guide to Alma Avenue and Frew Drive (Essay Press, 2016?).


Sarah Ann Winn’s poems, prose, and hybrid works have appeared in Five Points, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and Massachusetts Review, among others. Her chapbooks include Field Guide to Alma Avenue and Frew Drive (Essay Press, 2016), Haunting the Last House on Holland Island, Fallen into the Bay (Porkbelly Press, 2016) and Portage (Sundress Publications, 2015). Her first book, Alma Almanac, is forthcoming from Barrow Street Press in 2017. Visit her at or follow her @blueaisling.

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