Father replays the funeral in Dream #28

Shame             forces                        what we denied         into luminosity.
In dream       my father     tells me               my mother’s grieving      
prevents          momentum.

He’s projecting thoughts to a screen          for me to read.      
I’m at his private film      of captivity.

He’s watching us.    We’re hunched over          heaving the sorrow vomit.

Father stands before me
time without fear    suspended    and apart
unafraid of anything   one way or another.

“When did they cut it?”                                                       he wants to know 
pushing the thought into space                   between my eyes.

Raising his pant leg    where the mortician

smoothed and stretched the salvage skin     Father used    for padding 
his below-knee amputation                         
hovering   inches above the ground                                   glints in his eyes.

He doesn’t remember the amputation                                     
in the bending.

Father shows me his whole leg.                    Scars

mended and smooth.
He is an uncut body again.  Like before the bending place.
Only the graft scars on his thighs remain.

He projects: “I feel my leg here Margo  my foot still itches here” Father
points: “in this empty space”     he twirls his fingers       a    slow    spiral.

I nod to him:               “I see.  I’ll remember this for you.”

Related Poems

My Father as Cartographer

In dim light now, his eyes
     straining to survey
the territory: here is the country
     of Loss, its colony Grief;
the great continent Desire
     and its borderland Regret;

vast, unfathomable water,
    an archipelago—the tiny islands
of Joy, untethered, set adrift.
    At the bottom of the map
his legend and cartouche,
    the measures of distance, key

to the symbols marking each
    known land. What’s missing
is the traveler’s warning
    at the margins: a dragon—
its serpentine signature—monstrous
    as a two-faced daughter.

Becoming Ghost

I stand behind a one-way mirror.
My father sits in a room
interrogating himself. Bright bulb
shining like the idea
of a daughter.
 
—
 
It looked just like the real
thing. The helicopters, the fields,
the smoke which rose in colors,
the bullets blank, but too real.
Coppola yells Action and we
drag slowly across the back
of the screen, miniature
prisoners of war to Robert Duvall’s
broad, naked chest.
What you’ll never see
written into the credits
are our names.
 
—
 
Ghost of a daughter:
specter, spectator, from a future
we can only dream of. We never
dreamt that one day, you’d be
my age and too bitter
to talk to me. I who gave
every peso to your mother,
who sewed coins into the linings
of my pockets, so that you could eat
enough food and grow taller than
either one of us. I am asking you
to look me in the face and say Father.
I am asking you to see me.
 
—
 
Morning yawns and today,
my father has deleted a daughter, today,
he’s blessed with two sons
who take after his fire and quicksilver.
Today he may be haunted by the grip
of a friend who died in his arms,
but not the scent of a baby girl
he held 37 years ago. Women,
he says, and spits out a phlegm-
colored ghost. There is plasm,
he says, and shrugs–– and then,
there is ectoplasm. What is a father
who has two sons? Happy,
he replies with a toothpick pressed
between his thumb and forefinger. Happy,
he says, looking into the mirror
and seeing no reflection.

Kissing My Father

Three days into his wake my father has not risen.

He remains encased in pine, hollowed-
out, his body unsealed, organs 
harvested, then zippered 
shut like a purse. 

How strange to see one’s face inside 
a coffin. The son at my most peaceful. 
The father at his most peaceful.  
Not even the loud chorus 
of wailing family members 
can rid us of our sleep.  

My mother sits front center.  
Regal in black, her eyes sharpened 
as Cleopatra’s. Her children, grown 
and groaning, quietly moan beside a white 
copse of trumpeting flowers.  

The church is forested 
with immigrants, spent after their long journey 
to another country 
to die. 

Before the casket 
is to be closed, we all rise 
to bid our final farewells.

My mother lowers herself, 
kisses the trinity of the forehead 
and cheeks, then motions her obedient 
children to follow. One by one my 
siblings hover, perch, and peck. 

I stand over my father 
as I had done on occasions 
of safe approach: in his sleep, or splayed 
like a crushed toad on the floor, drunk.

I study him, planetary, 
distant presence both bodily 
and otherworldly, a deceptive 
kind of knowledge.
His beauty has waned 
but not faded, face surface 
of a moon, not ours, I turn pale,
shivering, I place my hand 
on his, amphibious.  

While my mother places her hand warm on the cradle
of my back, where I bend to fit into my body.

Her burning eyes speak, Do it for me, they
urge, Kiss your father goodbye.  

I refuse.