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Fall 2005

Meeting Mr. Cole

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I remember I sat in the backseat with a tire
and fishing paraphernalia and an open rusty
toolbox, as if this part of the car (a seasalt
scoured blue Chevy) were part of the trunk,
the whole rearend so roadbound it meant
the shocks were gone. Henri's father,
a former Navy man ("Stars on his blue serge
uniform flaunt a feeling"), just fit
the driver's seat, navigating flawlessly
the floating high front end through close
suburban waters. He was tall, like Henri,
but utterly, apparently, opposite from Henri's
natural elegance, work hands on the wheel,
white beard, his light eyes rinsed out red
in heavy glasses, his militant sailor's face
too used to the sun, the look I saw myself in
in the future. The way I remember my father's
welder's face boiled above me when he held me
by the wrists over a fire or what felt like one.
Henri's father was that softer soul, a fisherman,
a beachbum, someone who'd retired early deeply.
Whether he met us or took us to the station
at New Carrollton I've forgotten (we'd commute
from Boston and Manhattan south to teach),
and why this particular trip he was there
to greet his son I'm not sure, this mariner
out too far too many years. What mattered was
the moment. So you had to be struck by
the anger yet affection between them,
the absences and silences (the father's
eventual ashes in a cup), then the caring, shy
formalities; struck by how similar yet different
they seemed, how we all change with time but don't.

—Stanley Plumly

Stanley Plumly's last two books are a poetry collection, Now That My Father Lies Down Beside Me: New and Selected Poems, and a prose book called Argument and Song: Sources and Silences in Poetry.

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