Drinking in the Afterlife

by Michael Steffen

Headstones sprout in ragged rows on hills,
graves with potted plants and loved ones praying
for the bliss of their dearly departed,

whom I imagine are bellying up in the hereafter,
shotgunning beers, guzzling altar wine,
marinating in bottles of Three Penis Liquor

under the blue neon of disbelief. I mean,
is it too much to ask for some plausible picture
of the hereafter, something without ferrymen

or mythological rivers, a vision
I can relate to—just plain old dead folks
getting sozzled in the ever-present fog

of Dante’s third circle, well lubricated in white
dinner jackets and cocktail gowns,
slurring speeches to indifferent crowds

or trawling Perdition’s flea-blown dives,
a six pack of Schlitz in each hand?
What else are they supposed to do

while pausing for family and friends to arrive?
I couldn’t imagine my Uncle Red,
crusty as old time, showing up at heaven’s gate

just to throw bread to the ducks,
toss a few darts or maybe—for shits and giggles—
sneak back to his earthly home to whisper

some off-color joke into Aunt Dorothy’s ear,
topple their dusty portrait, a Hummel or two.
Better to imagine him lounging in the clouds,

waiting his turn before the stern judge, listening
to Coltrane play Salve Regina, starlight
from a vintage cognac swirling in his snifter.