after Encounters at the End of the World by Werner Herzog With booms & chirrs seals speak under the ice of an ocean frozen over. Stationary ocean. Electrified song. Color: snow day with autumn leaves inside it, glassene sheers of cantaloupe & kiwi on lavender, gunmetal, jetwing— When you rode the elephant through the puncture, the first syllable of my name parted the deep with your beautiful hand. Sparrow shuddered in her dustbath, swath of pleasure raked up & out. This is where I sat in the avalanche. In winter, where I was born, you pulled a cord of silk in your beautiful hand. I heard nothing under the ice. Bye bye now, our people would say. Bye bye later. First, song, a detonation— then white everywhere.
When I told them it must be like dropping your kid
off at school their first day, all my parent friends
nodded and smiled uncomfortably, meaning
what would I know. I won’t be taking solace
in the many firsts ahead. Here among the gray,
spotted and brown heads of the seniors,
their soft flesh and angles, their obedience as they
sit as uprightly as they are able at white, parallel
tables, nobody cries, and very few speak.
When I seat dad beside her, one senior tells me
she’s ninety-four, presenting one hand, four
fingers in the air, just as she might have ninety
years ago with a stranger like me, now long gone.
Dad never liked me to talk:
Lower your voice, he’d say. If I was louder:
Put on your boxing gloves. Or: You’ll catch
more flies with honey than vinegar, as if some day
I’d need the flies. I stopped talking, started writing
instead. I work full-time and dad wants to die,
so I dropped him at the Champion Avenue
Low-income Senior & Child Care Services Center,
a newish building, municipal and nondescript,
in a neighborhood that’s been razed and rebuilt so often
it’s got no discernible character left. There was bingo,
men playing poker in a corner. Red sauce and cheese
on white bread pizza for lunch. Dad, a big talker,
was an instant hit, but refused to return. What
is the name of that animal, someone asked me.
Where is Philip, asked someone else, over and over.
As if firsts and lasts were one and the same.