When we six cousins were teenagers, we were pall bearers for my grandmother's coffin. We met again around my grandfather's coffin. And now there will be another meeting. Between times we rarely speak, but when we are together again, we are as we always were. Six cousins--bumptious and reserved, a wordless pack.
Here's an ancient poem, dedicated to my uncle Paul, which I wrote after my grandfather's funeral. But the house in the poem is Bob and Connie's and the landscape is central New Jersey, where Bob spent his entire life as a farmer.
For Uncle Paul
It is what you might expect,
the day the next generation
crowds your father’s big coffin
into tight quarters,
all of us staggering around
in the wrong shoes,
crying about this and that.
Big and bald,
with sprouting grey hairs
and children and sorrows—
we loom, yes, every one of us,
casting shadows where they fall
over this land of exits and septic tanks.
There’s nothing to remember
except your sister’s house,
rearing up from a winter field,
scanning the painted sky
for the lost ones, sailing alone
this weary timeon the wide wide sea.