Dante had not thought death had undone so many.
He had not been paying attention. Just look
at the front page every morning, its solid column
of names. It looks like the print of a rubber stamp,
rough from reuse. At the bank of the river,
hoary old Charon can barely keep up.
Each day he has more trips to make,
each day a longer list, the sheet curling
at his toes. Back for another load, he moors
his boat and begins calling out, Adam, Mary,
Sarah, Thomas, running down the roll.
But before he’s halfway through, there’s pushing
at the back of the line and no relief in sight.
In the end, Charon must abandon formality,
must drop the roll, extend his bony finger
toward the crowd, and begin counting off,
you and you, and you and you and you.
“The Boatloads” is reprinted from Charon’s Manifest (NC Writers’ Network, 2005).