The sky without my father
Is too bright; there are now no gentle clouds
To soften the glare of my own ending.
The voice of my thunder god
Has faded to ashen echoes and memories of high twirling.
As a child I climbed his back
Pulled his hair
Explored his ears…
Now I have out-climbed his falling mountain
The white of spirit and black of flesh have softened to gray…
He and I have become dominoes at his passing.
This larger pattern of falling may be pleasing to nature
But his fall —
His slow fade of releasing light —
For that I reserve the right to rail
At the first commandment carved on the womb:
Who we love we will watch die
Who love us will watch us die…
My loss is as deep as my love
And the agony of this endless ending
Is a hard price to pay
For such tenderness.
There is a cycle of life, perhaps
Our flesh may be born again
Our hair, eyes, stories, watches even — passed on
We are circular winds of starlight
A larger pattern of falling pieces
But so little of what matters to us
Is bound in mere matter…
We are deep layers of meaning
Our bodies are like prehistoric insects
Our histories drown them
In lakes of clear amber.
At death, the lake, the amber;
The deepest lacquer of our visible souls
Dries, vanishes, ashes in a whirlwind of blind renewal
And the body – the least important footnote of our histories –
That is recycled!
And the earth, which could wake and wonder at our memories
Dumbly accepts our shells
And calls itself content.
Now we know, really know of this loss
Tell me: why do we love?
There is a kind of immortality in detachment
(never feeling a death before our own —
it could remain a surprise, an accident,
a careening bus with a black cloak at the wheel…)
Or, knowing the wild grief of this falling
Would our love twist with the terror of impending loss?
Would such natural flowers wilt in the heat of our possessive greenhouses?
Life needs a balance –
No death would be no planning, no growth
Death too close would be no discipline, no sacrifice
— for who does taxes in darkened hospitals? —
To live right, we must remember death at a distance…
Neither embrace nor evict it…
In the face of death
Neither a monk nor a wanton be
Death is the sibling of life
The seasons lie to us — it is understandable
As children, we gaze up the flowing rungs of generations
New, squalling, we imagine no ladder, but a wheel –
Life runs, the generations roll round
And we feel like great-grandparents sprung new-bundled
From an unwintered twig.
The seasons lie to us
The seasons return because they do not live…
There is no spring to our individual winters
As snow falls on our heads, so we fall from life
To the endless ice of history.
So much is lost
Of course I remember you
But only as I saw you, as the beach knows the footprints
But not the foot
But not the ocean.
A thousand books a day could not contain your thoughts
I can keep only impressions
When my father fell, his past fell
A burning map of where and what he had built
The constructed children of his calloused fingers
— as important, perhaps, as those of his loins —
His houses stand, though the hand has fallen…
I have lost
Not the memory of my father,
But my father’s memory…
This thousand-story library
This infinite vein of nightly mining
How little remains!
– what his second night with my mother was like
– the dark flash of a bee that flew into his eye
– the transparent whirlpool of a reddened sunrise
– the groaning bones of his most exhausted day…
The last time he whispered a secret
Did he know it?
Did he bid farewell to secrets?
This, all this can never be known
In the endless harvest of renewal
Each stalk, each soul is an ecosystem, a world, a universe
For this, let us mourn what we have lost
But also, now, that no father stands between us and our ending
Dominoes now fall free to our own demise
Grief is deep glass
A window to what we have lost
A mirror of what we shall lose
And, when we fall…
What others will lose