Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

Funeral Toll

The doorbell doesn’t ring, it tolls:
once, twice. This is when the lights
flicker, the floorboards splinter under my feet,

when the door is not a door but a portal
to a ravaged world I no longer recognize.
I conjure up the courier, holding three

packages from Amazon in his gloved
hands. He asks for my name, his voice huddling
behind a mask like a frightened child.

But I’m the one who’s afraid of monsters:
globular, spiked, deadly. A gust of air swarms
around me and I back away, ask him to drop

the boxes on my welcome mat, unconcerned
with breakage. Signatures have become
superfluous. My children, avid package

openers, fly toward me then freeze,
caught in the warning I spin in the space
between us. Don’t touch the packages!

a mantra in our home as commonplace as
count to twenty when you wash your hands.
In the kitchen, I’ve stashed plastic gloves

to open cardboard. I spritz disinfectant,
scrub the flesh off every item until
they are phantoms of their former selves.

This is when I peel off my gloves, touch
a corner I missed, brush an eyelash out of my eye.
One last toll and I see the graveyard, devoid

of mourners, no family or friends clad in black,
no heads bowed. Just a stranger, masked
and gloved, lowering my casket into the earth.

Julie Weiss found her way back to poetry in 2018 after slipping into a nearly two-decade creative void. In 2020, she was a finalist in Alexandria Quarterly‘s first line poetry contest series and a finalist for The Magnolia Review‘s Ink Award. Recent work appears in ArLiJo, Random Sample Review (Best of the Net Nomination, 2019), Sheila-Na-Gig, The Blue Nib, and Kissing Dynamite Poetry, and she has poems in a handful of anthologies, as well. Originally from California, she works as a telephone English teacher in Spain, where she lives with her wife and two young children. You can find her on Twitter @colourofpoetry and on her website at

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