Unfriending the Dead

by Jenelle Clausen

I saw the posts that said you would be missed; I saw
the unanswered, “What happened?” and my stomach sank.

Many Victorians’ first portrait was taken after death,
open eyes painted over the photo. Not so today.

There are hundreds of photos of you alive,
and I could scroll for hours. I have scrolled for hours

through family photos your mother still tags you in
five years later. I read about how you appear

in friends’ dreams, how much they miss you, as if you read
your wall these days. As if you’re reading this poem.

Who could have foreseen it — Facebook
as memorial, Facebook as memento mori?

I felt your family’s eyes on me as I viewed you
in your casket. I looked briefly, unsure of how

long was polite, how long was too long. I wondered
at the burden of hugging every acquaintance,

of clicking “like” on each sympathetic post.
Every November, Facebook prompts me to wish

you a happy birthday across the great gulf. Each time
I used to hover over “unfriend,” I found myself

unready to let you die. The other day, I caught myself
about to invite you to our high school reunion.

I remember sitting behind you in your brother’s car
and seeing your reflection in the passenger side mirror.

The radio played Shinedown’s “Second Chance,” and you
mouthed the words “Halley’s Comet” and fell asleep.

I’ll never forget how peaceful you looked,
unaware of being watched.

Published on October 24, 2019