I see men, but they look like trees, walking.  Mark 8:23

Not a friend, but related in the way love
sometimes binds you to those you'd
otherwise avoid, but true to an old
truce and your agreement with yourself,
show up at his funeral, sniffling even,
for his children, for mortality in general.

The altar is carved marble, rococo,
ugly in a way I once took for beautiful,
arcane signs unreadable from lack of practice:
a triangle of skulls around a figure
with a raised hand, angels on either
side, globe, sun, a cross.
The censor swinging, bells, silence,
rise, kneel, sit, stand.

I want consolation in the well worn words
but find dull resonance, cliched rhythm.
My father's funeral, outside, was better -
grass, pine, sky, sun.
The reader lay a sprig of pine on the coffin
all the comfort metaphor allows.

We caravan to the cemetary
wipers beating a slow dirge.
Outside with rain falling on our heads,
our feet sinking into the sodden ground,
I feel comforted.  This is better.
We should remember what we are.
A maple seed flutters to the grass.
Some consolation.

Helen Ruggieri
HELEN RUGGIERI lives in Olean, NY and teaches across the state line at the University of Pittsburgh in Bradford, Pennsylvania.  Recent work from Helen appears in Poetry Magazine (online), Burning Bush, Hawaii Pacific Review, Macguffin, Poet Lore, The Heartlands, etc.