All the World’s Her Stage
Donna Sewell


At Culley’s Funeral Home,

you edge behind your mom,

quiet for once,

surrounded by great-aunts, great-uncles, and cousins

unvisited for a decade.


Grayish carpet,

tissue boxes,

Uncle Marty’s polished casket—

a sad goodbye collage.


You play the quiet daughter and niece,

but silence strains you,

an unnatural condition.

As my husband and I approach,

your brow crumples.

Then you straighten and smile,

choosing a new persona:

the grown-up daughter.


In the small, old-lady-scented room crowds gather,

spilling out into the entryway.

You back up slightly,

creating more space for your stage,

and bump into your grandmother,

who frowns but adjusts accordingly.

Everyone moves for you.


Blonde highlights catch the dim light

as you swing your head with attitude,

brightening the black-filled room.

You chastise your mom

for introducing you as “her baby,”

suggesting instead “her princess” or “her diva.”

Warming up to your role,

you play the ditzy blonde

even though your hair veers toward brown.


Your audience laughs appreciatively.

You brighten,

accepting adoration graciously

like flowers after a play.

Muted laughter clashes with sniffles and rustling Kleenexes

as Aunt Alice greets newly arrived friends and family

eager to honor Uncle Marty.


You glow,

confident in your new role,

our neon niece

pleasing another audience.