My father's lungs linger,
Fighting under a white sheet.
I thought I could handle
Listening to the change of pace
Inside him: No song.
No known rhythm
I could recall. This night,
Sleeping beside him, I believe
I keep vigil, but death already
Has put his papers in order;
His passport awaits. I roll
Over in the cot next to his bed
I dream I'm a boy sleeping
In the room with my parents,
As they try not to make love
I roll back, and I'm a man again
Watching as the light shifts
To change scenes in the room.
I get up and touch his hand,
Nearly expecting him to wake
And call my name; I just want him
To know I'm here in a way
That we never could say to each other,
Anyway. In this room, I'm a ghost.
The TV glows on his face.
At this hour of night,
All commercials seem obscene,
But his face bathes in their blue light,
And he looks young again.
I see him heading out to work
In the stale air of morning;
An expiring moonlight frames him
In the doorway. The commercial changes
To another, and I hear the labor of his breath
As if his chest were a scale
And every ill deed of his life stands
Upon him, hoping to appear lighter.
The door is open.
A nurse looks in, tries to smile
But walks away, leaving her smile
Where she stood, as some god's
Shadow moves a bit closer.
A Song Composed from Forgetting
I'm trying to make music from the sound
I hear outside my window, a siren
Coming and bleeding away, a girl's voice
Just beneath itnotes my flesh
Would somehow claim as music
But I keep trying to make
Something else, something, if possible,
Less discordant than its chords of realities.
With my own name in memory,
A change in key depending on the day,
My body mutes through the change
In light, the change in time
Struggling to collect the past
And to make sense of a moment
Years before this one. Today, I just wonder
If some angel forgot his job,
Or did the day get a little longer,
Or did work simply realize it was work
As my memory fails to offer a salve.
My memory. I swear it happened like this:
It was in front of a People's Drug Store,
A couple fighting, if you could call her part
In it all, fighting; he had her by her hair,
With one hand, and he punched her with his free hand.
Her blood. I remember this most, and his face
Looking at me as if he would offer her to me
When he was done. And once I stepped in
To stop the scene mid action, they both stopped
And turned on me, the woman grew fists
And threw them at me
As if I had entered their bedroom
In the middle of some other act of love.
For all I know, this memory belongs to another,
Not only me, but also my mother or father,
Possibly them fighting in a dream.
Today, though, a girl's voice
Shatters outside beneath a siren
And it sounds too familiar,
Too much like a bell ringing
For years in my head, too much
Like too many neighborhoods
In which I've lived my life,
Voices falling not like leaves to the ground
But like glass from this window
Breaking with my gaze through it
With the lives I see as I refuse
To get involved, turning up the music
To dull my own hand
As it fingers notes through her dirge for help.