On Pattern

For Grandfather, in Bangkok

I can tell you, sweeping the several jigsaw lizards
away from your casket, away from their expert
invasions, kneeling by the order of our births
alongside the mother-of-pearl mosaics,
the family at your death keeps to form,
having to act out that love of endings.

I can say the little I know of how you lived
is your patient gaze in old photographs,
surrounded by three generations, most of the spindling
offspring back from the States or Australia or wherever
they’ d been taken, children barely known but abided
on holidays. Today I’ m told we have to place

pennies in the dead man’ s mouth
to remind us of the portions
left behind.
You pay the debt,
someone says, you give your something solid back,
push your currency up against the open,

up against the father tongue. It’ s the formal
silence we love, the hush that’ s planned,
the good answer,
monks, boyish and newly shorn, who know
to whip your burial cloth exactly three times
over the altar flame to purify countless threads.

Who know when to kneel, when to back away
from the casket. The casket itself carved
patiently, inlaid with the images,
portions left behind of silver
shrunken disciples, each framed to each then
framed again by

squares of alabaster scrollwork
whittled into black wood:
the whole teak surface worried,
Grandfather, with carpenter’ s gold,
then resplintered, puzzled with lapis.

The eastern window’ s been slivered open,
to make the sun stab
the craftmen’ s metallic fretwork.
The mourners too,
suddenly embossed, become dozens shifting
to kneel. When a few clouds

eclipse the sun, wiping away the borders,
the frame and scrimshaw,
so that we stand
in the room’ s darkened largeness,
next to me someone whispers,

how your vessel is rented,
a work
to be given back.