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Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

Joan Leotta: At the Funeral Lunch

Art by Bernice Holtzman 2023

At the Funeral Lunch


by Joan Leotta


The preacher paid verbal homage.

“Praise the Lord”

(and numerous accolades for the


Then, slowly,

slightly out of tune,

mourners moaned out

hopeful hymns about

hunger for paradise

while stomachs rumbled.

Tributes continued

until, blessedly, the preacher

extended the awaited invitation:

 “You are invited to lunch

fixed by our church ladies.”

All descended to the basement

for the parting party—

collards, ham, fried chicken,

deviled eggs, pimento cheese

triangles sandwiches.

The desert table anchored

the end of the culinary send-off.

Its array of sugary comfort was

guaranteed to stop tears while sending

sugar levels soaring with

ten-layer coconut cake, brownies, chess 

pecan, and sweet potato pies,

and banana pudding.

Saints and sinners, relatives, friends,

and hungry folks who wandered in, 

sidled up to table to assuage

their sadness with this midday feast.

As they waited in line, conversation

shifted from sweet to tarter memories

of the dearly departed.

As I watched them consuming

all my favorite foods, I wondered,

would their appetites be

as great if they could see me

drifting about the desserts,

a guest at my own funeral lunch?



Joan Leotta plays with words on page and stage. She performs tales of food, family, strong women. Internationally published as an essayist, poet, short story writer, and novelist, she’s a multiple Pushcart nominee, Best of the Net, and  2022 runner-up in Robert Frost Competition.  Her new chapbook is Feathers on Stone, 


Bernice Holtzman’s paintings and collages have appeared in shows at various venues in Manhattan, including the Back Fence in Greenwich Village, the Producer’s Club, the Black Door Gallery on W. 26th St., and one other place she can’t remember, but it was in a basement, and she was well received.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2023