A Drowned Body

Throughout the ceremony a storm threatened,

and the reader would hesitate, leave gaps,

mindless moments between the intervals of thunder.

The room was an echoing chamber of sonorous phraseology

in competition with the weather, interferences like slippery leaves

or an ice cold breeze which rattled windows,

made a shivery congregation huddle in their sweaters.

The air was thick, and immanent with portents of falling water.

We were polite, even humble. It seemed appropriate.

He made it through, though he fidgeted,

irritable, dispiritedly, as though, whatever it was, it had no right

to discombobulate the proceedings. And we agreed.

Afterwards we followed the flowers, a formalized bouquet

like an official contradiction; lights lit we followed our leaders;

we were mechanical beetles, a shuffling centipede.


At the cemetery those of us with umbrellas

carried them. We reassembled at the grave site,

and he spoke again; mumbled; hurried, all eyes attentive

to a gathering darkness. The afternoon

stumbled, was as awkward as a harried delivery boy;

nighttime was being precipitated. Then as the casket

was lowered to its station the rain came flashing,

unleashed, like a mob of voices, a vast sheet of river, overflowing.

In a moment the grave was filled, rimmed with water.

It was another Dutch scenario: the dikes not holding,

and we walked on water.


There was no hesitation. We scattered,

like blown leaves, like frogs, hopping and flopping

to our particular sanctuaries. I looked back. The speaker

still stood over the drowned body, making what seemed now

like irrelevant gestures. I watched from behind closed windows,

past streaks and streams of cascading water, and that desolation,

until, finished, he looked upwards,

walked away slowly.