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The Funeral Sermon

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Almost droll
in its assault on magisterial,
my father’s funeral
sermon made me prowl,
—agitated—from bean casserole
to escarole
salad, then taco casserole,
and back all afternoon, in thrall
to Dad’s every growl,
cramped certitude, and corporal
wavering lost to shrill
sacral
cant: The pastoral
story was Dad’s own, though, frail
as it is: faith and God steamroll
death. His wife’s and daughter’s role
was to die—a trial
of faith, not cruel
so much as natural,
when the supernatural
is, as it was for him, literal.
His cloistral
withdrawal, according to the minister’s drawl,
was grace, and his temporal
forfeitures fat collateral
on eternity. It felt surreal
(can there be a funeral
without, now, the word surreal?)
to hear Dad’s stoic control
and loneliness spiral
heavenward on genial praise, real
enough for the general,
one supposes. An orchestral
hymn flared through the stereo’s cloth grill.
Cold waves over the deep water roll,
we sang, some voices shrill,
mine guttural,
my brother’s slow as a crawl—
our voices one and several,
a visceral,
not unmagisterial,
chorale.

Source: Poetry (May 2010)

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This poem originally appeared in the May 2010 issue of Poetry magazine

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The Funeral Sermon

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