My Father’s Coffin
I have lain in my father’s coffin.
It was capacious, a word
he would have liked.
It was fresh, made of pine
by men
who carried measures
at their belts,
pencils behind their ears,
and hearts inside their chests
where they belonged.

Capacious, a word
he would have liked,
would have been proud
I found on the first cast:
“including much, roomy, wide.”

I was afraid
the men had made it
too big; that
it wouldn’t fit
inside the vault
required by law.
I lay awake
when it was done,
picturing the next day, all of us
trying to squeeze it in,
that large coffin, shoving and swearing,
muddy and bothered
by the man-made world’s tight fit.

He was bothered
by the man-made world’s tight fit.
As a young man he chose
the ocean,
the top of Mount Washington,
my mother
who made waves.

I am bothered
by the man-made world’s tight fit.
Driving toward his deathbed,
I was annoyed by the road,
narrow and obdurate.

He was still warm.
His belly was swollen
to contain the lost blood.
His liver was swollen
to contain the disappointment
of living.
It was not his heart
that failed him.

His face had shrunk.
It was the color of pine,
the color of the box I lay in.

The men needed to see
how heavy it would be
the next day.

I weighed
what he weighed

It was dark
when the lid
came over me,
but I could sense
the headroom,
the generosity
of the bed.

He lies deep in it,
from our grief.
Birkenstocks On The Bridge
In a telling last gesture
he left his Birkenstocks
on the bridge.
As he leapt from his life,
not sure where he was going,
except into a gorge
named Queechee
by the Indians,
he was barefoot.

Do I need to know any more
about this man
but that he was twenty-nine
and in dire pain,
that he chose the simplest cure,
rocks instead of a hard place,
that he arrived pure,
like a penitent,
on the other side,
scourged by his descent
through terror?

And wasn’t it the Indians who said,
“Do not judge a man
till you’ve walked a mile
in his moccasins”?

Who will walk in these?

Imagine the young policeman
who touched them with his hands,
noticing how they were placed
one slightly ahead of the other,
as if someone had stepped out of them
to lie down, briefly, to rest.

Imagine the reporter
hearing this detail, asking,
“What size are they?”

Imagine the next of kin
taking them to
the Salvation Army.

Imagine an army in them,
Imagine salvation.