Poems by Robert Laidler


City of Fellowship


We didn’t know what kind of flower
arrangements to get the family. Normally,
we get white carnations wrapped in whatever
the color theme for the funeral was. Once
we went to a funeral themed in burgundy.

The preacher wore a burgundy tie. The family
limousines were black. It was the longest
funeral we had ever been to, the sun rose
and set before they even closed the casket.
The weeping was burgundy too.

We didn’t know if they would cremate
or put him out for people to see. We knew
his children, but we didn’t know if they knew
us, or that he was dead. We were a little
excited though, that they would get to ride

in a limousine for the first time, and see
both sides of the street. We didn’t know
if he had life insurance, but we made sure
to go door to door asking for donations
for the family. We collected over $5,000.

We took it to them hoping they’d be happy. We
said a speech to them about community, and love,
and Jesus, and good Samaritan, and suicide isn’t
an automatic ticket to hell, and we didn’t know if
they like peach or apple pie so we brought both.

We felt good about ourselves after we said
our speech. We didn’t have a way with words
but we had a heart that knew what to say
to people in bereavement. They looked at us
and took the money. They didn’t touch the pies.


Fellow child


Yes, long line up to box. I am more
afraid of this than birds. I never felt
a death that pulled; only push kind.
My cousin weep uncontrollable at his
grandpa funeral. I got scared before
concerned. Lord forgive, Lord take
away. I wash hands in bathroom too
long. I took both hands along my grey
pants, look like I peed, I scared enough
to. He hurt so bad. I hurt too. I reach
hand toward him. He slap away. Saw
me laughing, not because something funny,
because something dead and something
funny not supposed to happen. I not cry.
Set in stone of fake mourning. Singer
sings after getting paid. Organist plays;
tells my brother you can’t be over here.
My brother not even close. To death,
why you have to complicate relationship
already on ice? My cousin say:

Aunty don’t even come around no more,
too many skeletons in her basement.

Not about death no more, that too easy.
This about what wrong with me!
What come up? I can’t feel nothing now:
between cry and crypt. No, I don’t cry
at funeral anymore, funeral cry at me!


Robert Laidler, Assistant Professor of Teaching in the Wayne State Department of English, is the author of a poetic libretto, The Fallen Petals of Nameless Flowers, which premiered at Chamber Music Detroit in 2022. He earned his MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan, where he is currently a Zell Fellow. His poems have won various awards and have been published in a number of places. Most recently he was long-listed for Palette Poetry’s chapbook contest, a finalist for Driftwood Press’ chapbook contest, and a finalist for Missouri Review’s Jeffrey E. Smith Editor’s prize. He enjoys listening to music, playing music, eating, eating while listening to music, but not playing music while eating.


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