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      By My Father's Coffin at Graveside

      And I may return
      If dissatisfied
      With what I learn
      From having died.
      -- Robert Frost

      I cannot look at it.

      Above, a con trail marks the flight
      of someone going far and high
      into the clear cerulean blue,
      so far, so high. . .

      From trees nearby I hear
      the cooing of a single dove
      slip through the pauses
      in the young priest's prayers,

      and ages hence I know
      I will recall the murmur of the dove
      and what she sang
      but nothing, nothing
      of the padre's droning words
      at graveside.
      Mother slips her hand in mine,
      trembling, delicate, and frail,
      the shadow only of a grasp. . .
      there is so little left
      for her to cling to.

      I close my eyes, and I can scent
      magnolias from the trees
      and roses, roses, roses
      from the place I cannot look,

      and I know well
      that all my days I will recall
      the flowers and her failing grip
      but nothing, nothing
      of the coffin's lonely look
      at graveside.
      One last amen, but still I see,
      behind closed eyes, the face,
      the face that Daddy wore
      for all to see
      until they closed the coffin lid. . .

      I cannot go in peace just yet:
      the face I saw was vexed,
      as Frost might say,

      and though I know full well
      what kind of truth's inside a metaphor
      and know it's both a greater and a lesser sort of truth,
      I'll open eyes, and half -- or more --
      expect to see him standing here
      and nothing, nothing
      but an empty box
      at graveside.

      --Warren F. O'Rourke, 2004