Strange Gatherings at Maggie's

By Dan Hein


scene: early morning sun,
pierces through church window.
twenty degree breeze cuts
through the air. motionless,
they sit in silence, broken
only by footsteps. strangely,
no one cries. 


the young master stands
and takes his place at
the keys. he cracks his
knuckles and begins to play
a somber tune. the oldest
takes his cue. he addresses
the silent crowd.


a stranger enters. he
stays in the back, trying
not to draw attention to
himself. quietly, he pulls
out a cigarette. a pause.
he can’t find his lighter. he
puts it away.


the oldest begins. we
are gathered here today
to remember the life of
margaret white. the crowd
stirs. the stranger shudders.
the oldest sighs. the master
keeps on playing.


in a throne of oak and bronze,
maggie lays down. she’s
eighty-eight-years-old and
permanently tired. if she
could, she would choose
not to remember the crowd.
just her furniture.


her furniture couldn’t
make it today. instead,
it remains a relic in the
house on oakmount road
In bristol, new york. every
piece is splintered, but
maggie didn’t care.


the oldest holds back his
crocodile tears. he isn’t
thinking of mother maggie.
he’s pondering everything
that she left behind. her
bank account, her jewelry.
his old toys.


the master only met maggie
once. he picked up her purse
for her when she dropped
it at a grocery store. they
never said a word. that
was years ago. the master
has forgotten her.



the stranger met maggie
seventy-three years ago.
they were in high school
together. he married her
in 1940. he left behind a
wife and three kids for the
corps in ‘43.


in france, the stranger met
a young, impressionable
french girl who found him
irresistible. when his tour
was over, he elected not
to catch the plane back
to new york.


for a while, maggie believed
that her husband had been
killed in action. she rang
the marine’s office one day
to ask about him. she found
out that he was alive, in
france. comfortable.


maggie’s three children were
never happy. they had never
known their father, and their
mother was cruel. maggie
vented her anger on them.
they wanted to believe their
father was nicer.



the oldest, whose eulogy
was short and lifeless,
feasted with his family
and friends. they would
head out to maggie’s place.
the stranger slipped out before
he was noticed.


maggie chose to stay behind,
comfy in her prison bed.
in the early morning hours
on that cold autumn day,
margaret white went to
sleep. she was survived only
by her furniture.


strange gatherings at maggie’s
today. her families and
neighbors gathered that
day not to mourn her, but
to celebrate in silence. a
call for drinks. a toast.
to maggie, amen.