The Visit

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
d. 1993