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.
Outside on Fremont Ave, black
snow and no such thing as a
white wig or a lovestruck violet
who sings his heart out. My lungs
ached, huge with breath and the harsh
sweetness of strange words. Veilchen,
Mädchen—my brother spoke them
to show how my tongue was a gate
that could open secrets. He pressed
keys partway, to draw softest sounds
from the upright, and what he loved
I loved. That was my whole faith then.