FOR MY FATHER WHO LIVED HIS DEATH
NOW, while it is darkest, JUMP
off the gray carousel.
The horses are still,
and their wrinkled keeper dozes
in his cane bottomed chair.
This is the hour graves gape,
and sleepers twist in their chains.
There is no moon, but the stars
cast their wan messages of light
like bottles drifting over cold fathoms.
All the people and places you never touched
open their pale morning faces for you.
You reach out, but you are so slow
night sucks you back like an empty phrase
from a long distance telephone call.
But tonight I am restless. As you pass
I feel the brush of bony fingers on my wrist.
Bradley R Strahan
From the Heart with Grace
Wind, who yearns to be savored,
offers me three cups overflowing
with eternity, daemon of insight.
The opportune encounter enraptures quintessential
distress, ruffles estranged quietude,
kindles a jeud'esprit, glücklic heReise,
propels the fervent fragrance
of heliotrope, hyacinth and honeysuckle.
The tremulous hibiscus taunts me to warm climates,
reminds me I remain a thistle, resilient,
rooted in Mediterranean Celtic fringe.
Do you remember a language older
than time, when a shiver down my mother's
spine was worth a thousand words
and the melancholy in my father's eyes,
reflecting Lake Geneva, was indecipherable?
There unbeknownst to me
in a world inhabited by swans,
I too swim in concentric circles
to find the resonance of my core
and discover that in dreaming
lies the healing of earth. In dreaming
we travel to a place where all is forgiven.
In dreaming is the Divine created.
And the great Oneness whispers ex-voto,
I am centaur by any other name,
I am griffin by any other name,
I am mermaid by any other name,
my raison d'être insubstantial, chameleon,
excavated like a talisman from wreckage,
resplendent fresco catapulted
beyond whimsical metamorphic frontiers.
fathers and what must be said
early autumn days,
the dampness of the leaves
trying to light the fire
and dousing it with petrol,
more than once I singed my hands.
That time I stuck the chainsaw in the tree
me, and Dad,
he had to pull the tree down with the tractor,
there was such a crack
as it fell.
early autumn days,
lazily collecting the wood
coughing as the wind turned,
smoke choked eyes,
sitting on the woodpile
tea from the thermos,
all of this
these small things
Laughing at the jokes
my father told,
the warmth of the fire against my face,
sitting in the back of the tractor,
this soft love
is where I begin.
early autumn days,
quiet times spent with my father,
These gentle times
these small things,
I only want to say goodbye again
and call you back to the bus.
Wishing you had not scrambled up
its stairs like a Spring chicken
to show me your heart was still in it.
If only other words had been
our last goodbye before
the street below consumed you.
I rubbed my breath from the window.
You opened a black umbrella across an ashen face
denying the rain its final kiss.
Fighting the wind along the city quay,
walking to your end and for always
away from me.
Lies my Father told
He kept a diary
Who would have thought it
Of a tough old guy like him
It reflected his strength, his wit and his gentle irony
It was several journals actually
Entries in the latter years of his life
Although the pages were dated
I could tell from living at home
That there were periods of time
I read them after he died
Trepidatious as to what I’d find
As in life
I found he was a bigger man than his frame
Never writing a bad word
About one of “his boys”
for my father
I want to memorize this
our time together – what we did
without her there to tell me
You wouldn’t want this life
you’re not cut out for it – and me
the child holding the reins of an unruly horse
as you took off its shoe and examined its foot
before putting the new one in place
for riding far away – from the dirt I had pulled carrots
shaped like mandrakes – or had stolen sour apples
that fell beneath the huge tree where yellow and green
caterpillars hung like earrings in the twilight – or sugar
I’d taken from the box in the pantry when she wasn’t looking.
It was a fortune of smuggled goods
with which to win them over
to keep them still and nudging me for more
while you attended to their hooves.
She still tells me what to do
miraculously knows if I’ve lost something
she has given me – as I should only like
what she had – and I don’t care – I take these
things – and wait for prescience to cover me
like a blanket – she misses you – and wants to die.
You are in every dream she has – they fill her up
to being young – and upon waking she reaches backwards
to you – left only with the bed half empty.
I’m dying to be honest
and sit her down to listen finally to me
to see me as I truly am – it’s almost hopeless
and I cannot bear her cursing in three languages
for all the good it does her – it sends me into silence.
I’ve chartered the stars to find the constellation
of forgiveness – its open milky light inviting me forward
to resurrection – to love – to the familiar made over
against the odds of time and space.
I’ve memorized this, now, the young girl, her long hair
slipping from the braids – the mandrake carrot in her open
hand, the unruly horse tamed and looking at her
with trusting eyes and her blacksmith father
whispering in Russian,
Hold him – hold him tight.
Anne Elezabeth Pluto
when my father
walked out of the house
and into his head
we could hear the door slam shut
we did not see him again
but there would be
the occasional note
reminding us that people
who take long holidays
cannot be trusted
the colours changed
a clear blue made its way onto the walls
and our toenails acquired
a distinctly green undertone
we got to see birds in a different way
although we forgot their names
we collected the snails that touched us most
and piled them up on the kitchen table
we straightened our shoulders
and discovered our necks
then we were told to climb the mountain
that had appeared next to our house
and so we did one tuesday morning
as we got higher the wind peeled off our clothes
and our skins learned a new language
they became rather fluent
back home we got rid of the books
and sat on a rug listening
to the world knocking patiently on our door
When you come to me
One long, lone day
You’re going to take your stand
You’ll want to declare yourself
You’ll need to make me see
As I see you now
Taking shape before me
I know when you become
The man you will be
You will see me for the man I am
No more icon
No more standard
By this spinning, multi-colored life
Equally willing to grab on
And take what comes
When you come to me then
I will be ready
Michael H Clay
Food from the Grave
The knock on the door brought death,
and you brought your shovel
to dig into the eight by four,
for the misfortune who’d passed,
not just buried in mud and clay,
but also the sweat from your brow.
I see the modern machines
doing the same work in a fraction.
But it doesn’t ever stop,
for just one moment,
to say a prayer
for the soul of the departed
and whisper a quiet word of thanks,
that his family was fed that week.
You scamper through my dream
like the white rabbit, a little man
wrapped in towels and scarves,
a look of frantic purpose about you,
scurrying like a lost toddler –
but you don’t see me. You are old,
very old, and must get across
this crowded mall before it’s too late.
I must deliver a lecture soon,
so clearly I’m important. For a moment
I believe this nonsense, hesitate
to go after you, then do so at a sprint.
Wait. I know who you are.
But you’re quick and I can’t catch you.
Surely you’re blind but right now
you don’t seem so, twisting past legs
and shopping bags like some crazed lizard,
ever on the edge of collapse
but never quite falling. Just once a slip
but you’re up again, dodging, and I’m afraid,
and then we’re through revolving doors
into some cavernous hotel foyer
slick with polished tile, gleaming
with wealth and opulence, and you’re
still running, arms waving, a little boy.
Help me, help me! You call, but nobody comes or turns.
I’m desperate to catch you
before you plunge headlong and fall,
before that old gasping breathlessness,
before that final panic. Wait, please wait!
I’ve almost reached you when you go down,
no purchase possible any more,
and I’m hurtling across the floor,
sliding, sliding towards you, holding you.
Do you recognise us, Dad,
do you see who we are?
But the terror wakes me, and still I don’t know.