A short ride in the van, then the eight of us
there in the heat—white shirtsleeves sticking,
the women’s gloves off—fanning our faces.
The workers had set up a big blue tent
to help us at graveside tolerate the sun,
which was brutal all afternoon as if
stationed above us, though it moved limb
to limb through two huge, covering elms.
The long processional of neighbors, friends,
the town’s elderly, her beauty-shop patrons,
her club’s notables. . . The world is full of
prayers arrived at from afterwards, he said.
Look up through the trees—the hands, the leaves
curled as in self-control or quietly hurting,
or now open, flat-palmed, many-fine-veined,
and whether from heat or sadness, waving.
Poem copyright © 2004 by David Baker, whose most recent book of poetry is Midwest Eclogue, W. W. Norton, 2006. Reprinted from Virginia Quarterly Review, Winter, 2004, by permission of David Baker.