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.