I’m older than my father when he turned bright gold and left his body with its used-up liver in the Faulkner Hospital, Jamaica Plain. I don’t believe in the afterlife, don’t know where he is now his flesh has finished rotting from his long bones in the Jewish Cemetery—he could be the only convert under those rows and rows of headstones. Once, washing dishes in a narrow kitchen I heard him whistling behind me. My nape froze. Nothing like this has happened since. But this morning we were on a plane to Virginia together. I was 17, pregnant and scared. Abortion was waiting, my aunt’s guest bed soaked with blood, my mother screaming—and he was saying Kids get into trouble— I’m getting it now: this was forgiveness. I think if he’d lived he’d have changed and grown but what would he have made of my flood of words after he’d said in a low voice as the plane descended to Richmond in clean daylight and the stewardess walked between the rows in her neat skirt and tucked-in blouse Don’t ever tell this to anyone.
In barlight alchemized: gold pate, the bellmouth tenor, liquor trapped in a glass. The e-flat clarinet chases time, strings shudder, remembering the hundred tongues. Here comes old snakeshine, scrolls stored in the well, here comes the sobbing chazzan. O my lucky uncle, you've escaped the Czar's army. Thunder is sweet. Here comes the boink, boink bossa nova slant of light. Snow-dollars dissolve on a satin tongue. The river swells green, concrete trembles, and we sweat, leaning toward mikes and wires as the last tune burns down to embers. Ash- whispers. We were born before we were born.