This week’s poem is an elegy for the poet’s father, and rather than giving us an explanation of the poet and the family’s grief, it places side by side the actions of a group of loons and the actions of a group of family members, preparing for a funeral. It is a simple poem in that way, and a powerful one.

Margaret Yocom’s poems have appeared in the Beloit Poetry Journal, the Beltway Poetry Journal, and the Journal of American Folklore. A specialist in oral narrative and traditional arts, she has published books and articles from her fieldwork among her Pennsylvania German family, the Inuit of northwest Alaska, and the people of western Maine. Recently retired from George Mason University, she continues to offer workshops in folklore and creative writing and lives in Farmington and Rangeley.

Rafting Up

By Margaret Yocum

In memory of my father, Norman Davidheiser Yocom (1923-2016)

Four loons float east down the lake


A fifth surfaces

Then another, and another.

One sweeps its neck left, and right

One dips its beak, and dives

One looks back – the rowan, its red berries

One hoots to an unseen eighth


Then another, and another.

We hover around him

One perches on the windowsill, one on the bed

One sways side to side in the chair

One stands on one leg, then the other.

Soon we will dust off our black shoes


Our black dresses, our suits

We will fasten white pearls around our necks

We will stiffen white collars

We will walk down the aisle to the front pew

We will track each other, glance by glance

We will sing one song

Then another, and another.

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is Portland’s poet laureate. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2016 Margaret Yocum. It appeared in the Goose River Anthology, 2016, and appears here by permission of the author.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: