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Triptych: Old Men Sitting by Water

by Robert M. Randolph

I. Old Man’s Hands

  • The old man looks at the backs of his hands.
  • The veins seem to belong to his grandfather when they fished for trout,
  • water riffling over rocks, dogwoods blooming back in the hills.
  • Nothing could drift that memory away;
  • it’s one of the deep pools inside his skin making him feel alone.
  • And the light he used to see in his own hands has gone.
  • He thinks it waits someplace else for his body—
  • in a 50 Ford pickup by a good stream.

II. Gunderson’s Feathers

  • I lived in a log cabin held together by starlight
  • and watched carp ransack the shallows, their thick backs snaking, half out of water,
  • and the flash of their sides strong enough to be a golden age.
  • Gunderson waved from his boat down the boulevard of hello.
  • It seemed to me we would both die alone across the lake from each other,
  • like margins on the sides of a letter.
  • Who knows what the lake wrote, but bass jumped all night like punctuation marks.
  • God read it from the sky.
  • I moved away, prepared to die elsewhere,
  • but I think of Gunderson sitting on the wooden bench by his cabin,
  • all covered in white feathers.

III. Baseball

  • In his last at bat an old man with yellow teeth gets a walk.
  • On the way to first he wanders off the field
  • and finds himself watching a young woman with her shoes and socks off,
  • pants rolled up to the knees, wading in the North Sea.
  • The man feels a slight chill in himself, like a bird about to fly.
  • The woman’s feet under the water are as beautiful as pearls.
  • Part of the man sinks roots right there, against something coming.
  • He waits for years for her to come out of the water
  • and his body gets as white and thin as a birch tree, because he’s in love.
  • Many people love him, unsure why.
  • It is because when he sits with them at the opera or at dinner
  • he is also waiting for a woman by the sea.


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