How we love to imagine them lounging around, looking out for us, distracted from the delights of the afterlife, waiting to swoop in and snatch us by the collar as we’re about to step off some cliff. But the Dead more likely resemble cashiers at an all-night supermarket, groggy, even a little vague, under the fluorescent lights, hoping to skim a few more chapters before their Biology midterm in the morning, maybe find a few minutes to flirt again with that cutie in Produce. Yeah, The Dead have their own shit to deal with. And might grow more than a little annoyed having to address the same stupid requests every hour, every night. I know the deli counter’s closed but could ya scrape me up a BLT? Nope—not in their job description. After all, hadn’t they taken this damn post, assuming no brand of idiot would be shopping in the middle of the night? No, they’re not there to search stockrooms for your favorite Polish pickles or to mop up the blue goop seeping from the Tide display before some sucker slips and breaks his neck or to play security when your drunk pal pockets a king-sized candy bar. No. If you’re lucky, or blessed, all you’ll get at this late hour is a name tag that says “Welcome!” and maybe a smile as you’re bagged up and directed toward the nearest exit.
Michael Montlack is author of two poetry collections and editor of the Lambda Finalist essay anthology My Diva: 65 Gay Men on the Women Who Inspire Them (University of Wisconsin Press). His poems recently appeared in Poetry Daily, Prairie Schooner, North American Review, december, Cincinnati Review, and phoebe. His prose has appeared in The Rumpus, Huffington Post and Advocate.com. In 2022 his poem won the Saints & Sinners Poetry Award (for LGBTQ writers). He lives in NYC, where he teaches Poetry at CUNY City College.