Yesterday the call finally came
saying you were gone.
The familiar voice said she’d been with you
at the end
and you died calmly and easily
like you always wanted-
just slipped away
a thin cloud
passing a quarter moon.
The bones in my body
relaxed with a sigh
as soft as the sparrow’s breath
as he watches a giant
bird of prey banking away
another bloody meal unnecessary.
A flood of memories too fleeting to grasp
race across my mind
like minnows in the shallows of a farm pond
slippery and luminescent.
And the Hiroshima shadows on my heart
fade to almost nothing
hardly remembering the harsh hand
that etched them there.
It is no coincidence that today
we await, like nervous bridegrooms, the
coming of a hurricane
to the flat, Carolina soil in which you toiled
in early life.
I fear the turbulent, force-of-nature-to-be-reconned-with
facet of your life might easily be forgotten
in the serenity of your dying-
a Beethoven symphony that exits the hall
to the sound of a triangle’s tinkle.
Surely, that would be an injustice and
sacrilege to the richness of your existence.
That you’d shrunk with age into a tender
bewildered shadow of your former self in
no way lessens your legacy as a father,
a complex man capable of kindness and cruelty
with demons and angels battling
sometimes to a draw, for the right to sit on your shoulder and offer
curses and blessings to the world.
So, tomorrow we honor and claim you
with loving truth
before family and friends
speaking the fullness of your nature
the shadow and the light
inviting and holding the broad stroke of your time on earth
allowing it to touch our lives once more.
We listen for guidance to the sound of crickets
and the earth-rumble of a locomotive in the night
with its cargo intact