This week’s poem weaves together death rituals from different cultures to imagine what the speaker’s mother might have done at her memorial service.

Alice Persons lives in Westbrook. She co-founded Moon Pie Press in 2003, and her third poetry book is “Be There or Be Square” (Moon Pie, 2018).

To Dance Again

By Alice Persons

The Sisala tribe of Ghana

celebrate for days with the departed,

then special shamans raise the dead

to dance and cavort with the party goers

for hours. An anthropologist

swore that he saw this many times.


I like the New Orleans custom: band playing

slow, sad dirges on the way to the cemetery

and joyful dance music on the way back.


If I can’t have that, then a dramatic Viking funeral

where you are arranged on a cool looking boat,

the whole thing set ablaze and sent out to sea.


Or the Native American way,

the body on a high platform

where no one can see you

return to nature

and perhaps feed some eagles.


My mother was not at her memorial service

except, I hope, in spirit. There were cocktails and nibbles.

She loved a party. A skillful dancer,

Mom would embrace the Sisala way. She would rise

and waltz, jitterbug and tap dance one last time.

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is poet who lives in Portland. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2018 Alice Persons. It appears here by permission of the author. For an archive of all the poems that have appeared in this column, go

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