I’m not sure how we wound up scuffing dirt
While gazing dumbly down at the thousand
Unfamiliar names stamped onto brass plaques.
We strolled below a formal scattering
Of trees: evergreen, sycamore, willow.
I hadn’t wanted to come here to find
My father grousing at teetotalers,
Sculpted shrubbery, clumps of hunched weepers,
But someone had repeated the story
Of the well-hung guy who’d been cremated—
His widow, passing the urn among friends
Gathered for the farewell feast, loosed a sigh:
It’s true. His dick weighed more than his ashes.
Some laughter, then deferential silence…
“We should visit your father,” hmm’d my wife,
“It’s about time I introduced myself.”
She’s foreign—from a country where the dead
Are spoiled with reverence & begged by name
To quell family squabbles, where snowdrops
Are stolen from strangers’ graves to be tamped
Once more in soil above distant cousins:
“Don’t worry. The dead forgive each other.”
So we’re here, fourteen years after his death,
That hard, negative, & enduring fact
Cast upon this plaque under which reside
The heaped cinders of my father’s body,
Though he is conversing now with my wife
In a voice I can’t quite match, a murmur
That seems to coil up through sap & needles,
It’s okay…he’s my son…I knew he’d come.
Why do you think I ferried you to him?
In memoriam Raymond Waters
Michael Waters is the author of eight books of poetry, including Darling Vulgarity, Parthenopi: New and Selected Poems, Bountiful, The Burden Lifters, and Anniversary of the Air. His several edited volumes include Contemporary American Poetry, published by Houghton Mifflin in 2006, and Perfect in Their Art: Poems on Boxing from Homer to Ali, published by Southern Illinois University Press in 2003. His poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Poetry, The Yale Review, The Paris Review, The Kenyon Review, The Georgia Review, The Southern Review, The Gettysburg Review, The American Poetry Review, and Rolling Stone. He teaches at Monmouth University and in the Drew University MFA program.