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.


Robert M. Randolph teaches at Waynesburg University. His work has been published in Poetry, The Georgia Review, and Poetry East. His book, Floating Girl (Angel of War) was published by Elixir Press. He has had Fulbrights in Finland and Greece, and is the pastor of a small church on the banks of the Monongahela River.