CHARON THE FERRYMAN


There’s always somebody striking up a song. Off-key.
“Wade in the Waters” usually be the one, forcing me
to oar my way back through the mud and sand,
mid-crossing, to drive back the shades.

 

I don’t have time for customers who can’t pay.
Everybody’s always looking for the hook-up.
For a one-way trip, I only charge
one lousy coin.  That’s the going rate.

 

But my clientele thinks differently.  They are
worse than little kids waiting the long hour
after they eat, to get back into the pool.  Only this
ain’t no regular hour, if you’ve been waiting

 

long as most of them.  An hour seems like
a hundred years, so a hundred years must seem
like hell.  Then there are the hotheads, the ones
who want to argue the meaning of proper.  “What ‘xactly

 

they say, is proper?  What it ‘sposed to look like.
And what dicty Tom made up these rules for my burial?
They roll their opalescent eyes,
contort their long necks.  Anybody

 

with that kind of time on their hands
must not be getting any at home. 
So he ain’t got nothin’ better to do
than think up ways to make death more miserable.

 

“Can I see a copy of these here rules?” one says.
“Lemme talk to the H.N.I.C.” I try to tell them
how Hades is a mighty important man, explain
that he’s too busy to deal with this kind

 

of foolishness. That’s when it gets personal.  Making fun
of my boat, raggin’ on my clothes.  Telling me how
They didn’t want to ride in no rustbucket no ways.
That they would never be caught dead


riding with a no count who has to tie up his clothes
in knots.  “For somebody who makes as much
he’s making off us (They signify like I can’t hear.)

You’d think he’d buy a suit—and get himself a shave.”