Now you are put to rest

 

for Jean Franco

(March 15, 1907- April 15, 1992)

 

T.Wignesan I

They opened his abdomen

 

found what they were not looking for

 

though half-expected

 

to see

polyps enormous cancerous mush

 

in lieu of

 

and the rest that had given out on him

 

They said: if we had known we wouldn't have torn into his

 

tripes

to see

 

even the sample test told us as much

 

but we did it for him

 

he so wanted it done

 

now we merely have to wait and see

 

just how long it would take him to conk out

 

without solid food to pass

 

from his newly-grafted conduite

 

 

He was completely in their hands

 

and hung on to their lips their every nod

 

their plans for him

 

and the use he had for their

apprentis chirugiens sorciers

 

 

He kept his anger for his friends family telephone operators

 

the aide-soignantes

 

those he could intimidate with his age

 

for he didn't know what they knew

 

they wouldn't feel the hurt the slight

 

for long

 

the rankling umbrage sans riposte

 

 

He didn't mind all the inconvenience

 

the constant waking to pass water

 

the secluded room without tv

 

without his wife to take it out on

 

without the means to exude

 

his usual referee's contempt of rules

 

 

In their hands he was the meek inept thing

 

pleading with his eyes

 

his whole body bent to their gaze

 

of wonder

 

of why he would so question going

 

now then or even a little later

 

 

 

 

II

 

You had said when I kidded you

After all I'm not going to be far away

Now you are put to rest

In a place dug and slabbed for you alone

As if you were not going to rest for good

with all the others

It is a place to a side in the pebble-strewn sidewalk

against the wall

your feet to the east

all the other feet to the south

As of a general standing to a salute from his army

 

There was no sight of you

The golden chocolatish-pink of your casket

made more glittering the cross

I couldn't guess if you would have wanted the Church's ornament

then the feeling of being out-of-place

thoughts of you in a cloud

 

We talked in suppressed tones

about you of you

trying to be polite and succeeding among uneasy fellows

here and there some unwanted details slipped in through nervousness

yet none felt your hand tremble on the racket

 

You were the master of the court

as now you mastered your going by the low sleek slate-grained marble

in sharply polished angular correctness

amidst shy upright cypresses and neatly cut passageways of chipped stone

 

We sprinkled your tomb with Church water

Neither rain nor snow you remember could keep you from finishing your game

Already as we turned in a column the voices now louder in the distance

They were arranging the roughly hewn stone slabs

before the marble thickened your bed

 

You may at last be at rest

with no one to challenge you to a test of strength

your referee's whistle holding its un-disputable silence

 

You came with the spring

Now you go in cheery spring

Your sollicitous voice still lingers in our courts

You knew us all by name and style at play

long before we met under your critical gaze

 

T.Wignesan 1992

April 21, 1992

(Jean Franco, born in Morocco of Spanish stock, was an Income Tax Inspector and in his spare-time an International Soccer Referee for France. We often played tennis at the Tennis Club in Fresnes-94.)

[from the collection: back to background material, 1993]