Two Poems

At the Funeral of My Engineer Grandfather

San Gabriel, California, 1945

The doors stand open to the graves outside,
where the music goes when it is played.
The minister tells us that he isn’t dead
though his heart went bad
if the lily is our symbol of that.

After a morning of play
with pots and pans and him,
I sit on his lap while he calls
The Naval Observatory
long distance for the exact time,
his railroad Elgin in hand
with its face removed,
a jeweler’s tool touching barely
minute and second hands.

Engineers gather under the trees
and talk of his miracles with steam
running the ambulance train
so gently no one could tell
when it had started or stopped
and the stitches held easily
for the many wounded
and without any more pain.

One of his friends remembers
the head to head, main line meet
they once had without hitting--
with maybe a foot to spare--
and then wonders who will get
my grandmother, still a looker
and always has been, you bet.

Juniper Beach Dusk, 1947

I step out into the bay where
father barks a challenge
as far as sound travels
either to swim now hard
or to walk on water.

Down for the second time,
I’m lifted high in the air,
the happiest kid alive
to have a dad unkilled
this summer on the beach.

The war’s over but not the tanker,
torpedoed and dragged here
just off shore in ’45,
still leaking oil, its tar
picked off the beach by my guys
and chewed battle after battle.

At dusk ex-G.I.s his age
and even younger walk solo
all the way to the point
shadowing the tide line,
heads down, saying nothing
until I force them
with my plastic .45
to say, “You got me, Kraut”
and hit the dirt.

—William Ford, Iowa City, IA