THE DAY YOUR DAD DIED
We were young and death had not yet touched us
With its black-gloved index finger
Except for the grandparents who were old
And thus deserved to die. We were young and heartless.
Your dad, only 50, middle-aged, busy,
Then the series of heart attacks as if
The house was being strafed by the aircraft
Of an unknown, but invincible enemy. In and out
Of hospitals, then back to work. We had a baby.
We hardly knew what to do with it
Except love it. Feed it. Keep it clean. Your dad
Smiled and offered it candy it could not eat.
Christmas, he was back in the hospital, this time a prominent
Downtown edifice, where presumably more could be done.
He improved, so we were told. We were expecting his release
By New Year’s. He’d be coming home again, like always.
That early wintry morning, the phone
Urging us to hurry. You drove like hell
Blazed beneath your foot on the pedal
Where all of life depends on motion.
We gathered in the room high above the city.
Your dad, so white, his breath coming hard
And gusty like the prairie winds in January.
The doctor, a sober man in white, looked us over
Told you to take your mother elsewhere,
A waiting room with chairs and a coffee urn.
I started to follow, He took my arm. You
Stay here, he said. Figuring what? I was
The in-law, someone who didn’t matter
In the course of such matters. He handed me
A cool cloth. Wipe his forehead. Hold his hand.
In his, the syringe. He looked at me.
I’m going to help this guy. You understand?
In a buggy pulled by a trotter. Her hands
Fold over the sins of pleasure.
Frilled skirt of a gypsy,
Dirty white and ragged, her plump thighs
Trembling to dance like Salome.
Symbiotic with oaks,
The hammocks where they gather,
To be gathered by the unwary
Innocent in their little knowledge,
That birds and squirrels consume
What must confer goodness.
Imagine the canny god
Who inveigled the Viceroy to mimic
The sour Monarch or pasted
An eyespot of an owl
Upon a frail wing. The stink
Of spoiled meat should prove
A warning, but greed fills its
Basket. Eat as angels might slicing
The tempting flesh with flaming swords.