In one of our last conversations, Aunt Fran indicated that she thought the fact that I signed my poems (everything written for publication, in fact) “Dave Conlin Read,” was an affectation. She didn’t know that Conlin is a name I was baptized with.
That’s not to say that I’m above affectation – oh no, I had this engraved onto the cover of my high school yearbook: “D. Conlin Read.” now, there’s a fop to steer clear of!
At any rate, as a boy, I never was happier nor more proud than to stand in the shadow of Dave Read, my father. From the age of fourteen, it has been my job to emerge from the shadow of his tombstone, and to cast my own shadow, one that may show the family name in a good light.
Now that my poem Afterparty has been published in a book dedicated to the memory of Donald Hall, one the most important American poets of the 20th century, that name can hitch a ride on Hall’s coattail into literary eternity!
It was Aunt Fran Conlin who scolded me in the late 1990s for not signing the poems I was eager for her to read, when I began writing in earnest after sobering up. And, it was Aunt Marge Conlin Crawford who encouraged my literary aspirations in the first place, years and years earlier. Of course the chief Conlin is my mother, Teresa, who told me to speak up, get to the point, speak clearly, and never say blah blah blah!
If you deem this poem worthy of the name we share, and are amused enough at the thought of it hitching a ride into literary eternity, would you buy a copy, for about $12, and donate it to your local library?
The book is available for $19.95 from the publisher here; but they are available to me at 40% discount, which we can use for this scheme. Lemme know if you want to participate.
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We don’t bid our dead Godspeed to the afterlife
the way we did, in churches, where weeping echoes
off walls or gets absorbed by pipe organ blasts,
while incense spirals from an acolyte’s censer,
and the minister intones his woeful sound.
After we lowered our dearly departed into the ground,
back at the church hall there would be baked ham,
casseroles, and pies, supplied by neighbors and aunts.
Today, in function rooms, where event planners
have laid out aromatherapy diffusers and flowers,
we get right on with the afterparty and mingle,
nibbling fruit, veggies, and tiramisu, while a playlist,
synced to a slideshow, loops in the background.
First published in Except for Love: New England Poets Inspired by Donald Hall