He Must’ve Been A Good Man

If I might be allowed to be my own worst critic—as I usually am—I contend there is a major flaw in the poem that follows, that being the length of it. I prefer poems that are much shorter, mostly because when I read poetry, my attention span is short. I’m very impatient, as many of you well know. That said, I believe this to be a fairly decent write, and if you find your way to the end of it, I hope you can consider your time well spent. I might also add that this poem was first a story. I do that once in a while, when I think something I’ve written has the right feel to it.

And one other thing: this is my second post to Jingles Poetry Potluck for week 45. I normally only post one; mostly because I don’t write much poetry any more, and don’t want to run out of good ones. Well… I think they’re good. Hope y’all do, too.

He Must’ve Been A Good Man

The sun was hiding

behind white-laced, dark gray clouds

that sped in from the west

patches of blue-gray sky peeked through

now and then

The breeze was cool

compared to most mornings lately

the humidity was down, too

The folding chair was uncomfortable

but bearable

A murmuring rose and fell

as those around me held brief uncomfortable conversations

not sure if they should be talking at all

and if it was permissible

what topics could be breeched

Some leaned in and spoke in whispers

eyes darting to others around them

red and fearful

what are you looking at

An elderly woman sat alone in the front row

using her program as a fan

eyes straight ahead

looking at the erstwhile stage

It’s a play, I thought

flipping my tie then smoothing it

a habit I can’t break

A play where the audience must be silent

no applause

even though at times it seemed appropriate

not even a “praise the Lord”

or heartfelt “amen”

was to be tolerated

You wouldn’t be asked to leave or anything

but your fellow watchers would give stares

that would make you wish you could

The breeze picked up

as if someone had turned the A/C fan up a notch

I glanced heavenward and mouthed a silent thank you

The thought occurred to me

the leading man in this play

the curtain was about to go up on

the last act, as it were

must have been a good man

I didn’t know him

he was the grandfather of a co-worker

I came out of respect for her

or support

however that goes

I thought surely this man

must have been a blessing to his children

grandchildren, and friends

maybe to everyone he met

for the chairs on the grass were many

and filling fast

The church had been full, as well

the same people

in the same dresses and suits

one young man in Levis and a golf shirt

nothing wrong with that

I guess

The murmured conversations lessened

then ceased

the whir of tires approached from behind us

A bee fell from the sky—it seemed

onto the shoulder of the woman

sitting in front of me

Some turned to watch

as the long black hearse came

others bowed their heads

as if not wanting it to come

Perhaps trying to hope it away

denial the way to make this moment not so

It came

backed slowly to the stage

a satin-covered hole

man and machine had prepared

earlier this morning

Six men appeared

and slid the gleaming mahogany coffin

from the back of the long car

rested it on supports hidden by the dark green satin

Words were spoken

by a man in a black suit

tears were cried

jaws were clenched

the drone of the preacher’s voice

blending with the traffic noise

on the freeway behind us

the audience quiet, save a random sniffle

a choked sob

When the ritual was over

the murmuring returned

most walked away

toward cars

going to jobs they’d taken the morning off from

Some stayed to comfort the family

Red eyes blinked

or were wide

above grim smiles

as empty words were spoken

words soon to be forgotten

I thought again

how he must have been a good man

God gave his family a cool day

in late July

to say goodbye

That had to mean something

It could have been blazing hot

as it had been for days

too many to count

A splatter of raindrops sputtered in the grass


Then the sun came out


Copyright © 2011 C. Mashburn 


  1. seabell said

    In a certain way, in the end we all “must have been a good man”. Really interesting ambiance poem.

    • Thanks! I’m not sure what an ambiance poem is, so I’ll have to take your word that’s what this is.
      Thanks for your visit and comments!

  2. abichica said

    He really must have been a good man for you to find the words to write about him.. 🙂

  3. A wonderful sharing of support, an ambiatic feel, tender, respectful… addressing the loss of this man whom ‘must have been a good man’… lovely piece of writing.

  4. dswan2 said

    Your poem reminds me of Tom T. Hall’s song about a gravedigger waiting to fill in the hole he’d dug. You tell a good story. Did you know that Calvin, author of the Singer Trilogy, started putting his poetry into paragraphs so the editors would publish it?

    • I did not know that about Calvin, and I’m still stunned that you mention my poem in the same sentence with Tom T. Hall. When it comes to story telling, that guy is a genius and my idol! I remember listening to his songs on the radio and marveling at how he could tell such wonderful stories and put them to music.
      Thanks for your visit, and the awesome comments/compliments! Do stop by again!

  5. that was interesting, a day in the life of, what impacts us, perceptions etc…a nice social commentary 🙂

  6. Jingle said

    positive take, which is life’s sunshine,

    no one is perfect, all men love their children and family, selfishness is relative.

    Enjoyed your descriptive words, thanks for the outstanding contribution to poetry potluck.


  7. Sherry Mashburn said

    great story . . . you really captured the mood and the moment

  8. I enjoyed reading this very much, Excellent piece

  9. hobgoblin2011 said

    Really enjoyed the piece. Excellent job of carrying the reader through, I saw you don’t write poetry too often anymore, IMO you really should, you’re quite good

    • Thanks so much for the comments and encouragement. I’ve been thinking about diving back into the writing of poetry, but so busy with other writings, don’t know when I could squeeze it in. I actually wrote this as a story, and then converted it. The story and poem are almost word-for-word the same. I have to be honest, I don’t know diddly about writing poetry–writing anything, for that matter–I just do it, and what you see is what you get. One of the poets commented yesterday that this was a good “ambiance” poem, and I’m like… cool, but what the heck is an ambiance poem? Okay… I’m rambling again… I do that a lot
      Come back and read mroe when you have time!

  10. Katherine said

    Nice description of a funeral. The setting, what the people were doing – I felt like I was there, too. Plus, you didn’t put it in a negative way. Instead, you described it as saying goodbye to a good man. And the coming out of the sun at the end seemed symbolic to me, saying that a bright, new day full of hope and life still awaits the family the man left behind.

    • Thanks, Katherine! I really appreciate your in-depth comments! Stop by again sometime!

  11. nobody can write like this without feeling this content with loving kindness…you have my respect!

    • That is an awesome comment, Martin. I do write from my heart and soul when I write something like this. I am humbled and most appreciative of your wonderful compliment on my poem.

  12. This is a remarkable poem story with good thoughts, heart, and imagery. Even the grass benefited from the good man. You are a good man 🙂

    • Thank you so much. How wonderful that you would say I am a good man!
      I’m glad you enjoyed the poem, too, and I appreciate the insightful comments. You’re a great freind!

  13. Very well captured…I really liked the last three lines…the rain spluttering on the grass…briefly… and then the sun came out it’s like the circle of life. We are here ever so briefly and then we go and life goes on without us.

    • Yes! I thought those last three lines spoke volumes. It felt like a tip of the hat, if you know what I mean. Your comments are wonderfully insightful and appreciated. Please stop by again!

  14. When I first started reading, I thought you were at an open air theater awaiting the final act of a play that you were sitting suffering throught some duty you felt you owed to the final actor to come on stage.
    I was so surprised then, to discover you were at his funeral and everyone was there paying their last respects.
    Very nicely told. Gente and flowing. I could ‘almost’ feel the opressive heat and the small hint of pheww when the breeze picked up a little.
    A lovely write from you and Methinks, the right length, too.

    • That was the intent! I wasn’t too subtle with it, but I hoped some would find that surprise when they realized where the scene actually was. I’m glad to hear you approve of the length, too. That worried me some, as I tend to think people are like me and run out of attention span on the long ones.
      Stop by again, please! Your visits and comments are very much appreciated!

  15. Hope said

    you write beautifully! although I find it a little long as well you held my interest and feel of this well thought out piece. Felt calm while reading. love the line ‘a murmuring rose and fell’ enjoyed it very much! thank you

    thank you for your visit and comment
    take care

    • Thank YOU, Hope, for your wonderful and insightful comments. I am glad you hung in there and reaad the entire poem. So glad you stopped by. Please visit again when you have time (i’m normally not that long winded with my poems and/or stories.)

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