By Robert Cording
I just wanted to sit, shut my eyes,
tilt my face to the sun, and try not to think,
but the koi, insistent, unappeasable,
crowded to my end, the water roiling
with their need, and, when I opened my eyes,
I saw them lift their bulbous heads,
making sounds with their rubbery, barbeled lips
as if they were gasping for air.
When I shut my eyes again
because I did not want to see, I saw
the little outdoor fireplace on my son’s deck,
embers still burning. The October day
had not yet come into being,
the light anomalous, something between
night and morning. Inside, on the floor
of his living room, my son was dead.
His wife had waited with his body
until my wife and I arrived.
We lay next to him, touched his hair,
his forehead, his cheeks, his lips and chin—
and then I heard myself
trying to tell him we were there, we were
with him, we loved him,
but my words were more like moans
than words, every word sounding
its helplessness. When I opened my eyes,
there were the koi, their too-small pond
swirling with color—white, yellow,
black and white, gold, red and white—
all of them entangled, straining against
each other, mouths agape, turning
and turning in their net of water.
Robert Cording taught English and creative writing at College of the Holy
Cross for thirty-eight years and worked as a poetry mentor in the Seattle Pacific
University MFA program. He has published nine collections of poems, the latest
of which is Without My Asking, and a volume of essays on poetry and religion,
Finding the World’s Fullness.
Originally published in NOR 29.