[from Henri Cole's Middle Earth, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003]
From above we must have looked like ordinary
tourists feeding winter swans, though it was
the grit of our father we flung hard
into the green water slapping against the pier,
where we stood soberly watching the ash float
or acquiesce and the swans, mooring themselves
against the little scrolls churned up out of the grave
by a motorboat throbbing in the distance.
What we had in common had been severed
from us. Like an umbrella in sand, I stood
rigidly apart -- the wind flashing its needles
in air, the surf heavy, nebulous -- remembering
a sunburned boy napping between hairy legs,
yellow jackets hovering over an empty basket.
Middle Earth: Poems