Poem Begun on the Day of My Father's funeral and Completed on the first Day of the New Year

Light the last light and lift—
                                                                                                  and lift again in to that obscurity—

blue-skinned sky & what it cannot lead to—

                                                 the always immolated flesh of this world’s bone-shell—

what lasts? what goes like a trumpet blast

                                                                                                  through the feathered

                        ear of the angel? There

                                                                                                          & being & the evening air—

is in everything plummet—
                                                                                                                               & yet we go even some-
         times rise—have you wondered?

                                                                                                                               that dark wick—flame both
inward & below light the first fire—

                                                                                                                               what does not burn

                                                      might still die—& yet

                                                                                              what does not might grow—may graft—

                           like leaf & branch together—
                                                                                                                                              live this long lull
before the last:
                                                                let this
                                                                                                    let my words

leave their black axe next to the tree
                                                                                                                             & may
                         the grace
                                                of grace

feel through its fall

                                                                        the way—

More by Dean Rader

Alternate Self-Portrait

One day

I will drift

into darkness

and know it

perhaps

the way a son

recognizes a mother

after he has returned

from many years

of travel

understanding

the new distance

is neither

beginning nor

end

only stillness
 

Self-Portrait in Charleston, Orlando

The news this morning
said that Ramadi
had fallen to ISIS
and that the president
did not have a plan
to push them back
into the Anbar province
though I have a plan
to walk down to the
beach in silence perhaps
where I will stand
in water the temperature
of most corpses
and look out over
the shapeless ocean—
its waves shifting from
one color to the next,
this moment the shade
of an old bruise—
toward Japan,
which I imagine I see
across the map of
motion, that mystical
country which has
almost completely
ridden itself of guns,
like the one the boy
used to shoot nine
people assembled
to worship a man whose
skin history tells us
was the same color
as theirs, that mythical
man who may have walked
the streets of Ramadi in
those missing years
between his youth and
his destiny, and who
knows how many
of the slain
he may have raised
in those streets,
or pulled up out
of night into the
long daylight of the
not-yet-lived,
birthed back into
the skin of suffering,
or how many the man
might have dipped
into those mythical waters
that eventually emptied into
the Gulf of Oman and then
into the Arabian Sea
before their long walk
of waves across
time and history
to South Carolina and
into Charleston
but then retreating to
work their way down
the Eastern coast of
Florida and perhaps
even inland to
Orlando and then
back out again around
every country, every
boat, every body before
arriving on the beaches
of San Francisco on
the far end of the other
side of that mythical
continent, perhaps
even where I am
standing, the water’s
color like a bullet, and I
wonder if all life is
somehow loaded into
the chamber of a rifle,
the long tunnel of
darkness before us
our birthright and even
our destiny, all of it
as close to the hammer
as the width of these
lines, themselves an
inheritance of something
I am only now
beginning to understand,
like an insurrection
that no one saw,
not even those
in it, not even the man
with his hand on the trigger
or the people ready to rise.

Related Poems

Reading to My Father

I come back indoors at dusk-end. I come back into the room with

your now finished no-longer-aching no-longer-being

body in it, the candle beside you still lit—no other

light for now. I sit by it and look at it. Another in

from the one I was just peering-out towards now, over

rooftops, over the woods, first stars.

The candle burns. It is so quiet you can hear it burn.

Only I breathe. I hear that too.

Listen I say to you, forgetting. Do you hear it Dad. Listen.

What is increase. The cease of increase.

The cease of progress. What is progress.

What is going. The cease of going.

What is knowing. What is fruition.

The cease of. Cease of.

What is bloodflow. The cease of bloodflow

of increase of progress the best is over, is over-

thrown, no, the worst is yet to come, no, it is

7:58 p.m., it is late spring, it is capital’s apogee, the

flow’s, fruition’s, going’s, increase’s, in creases of

matter, brainfold, cellflow, knowing’s

pastime, it misfired, lifetime’s only airtime—candle says

you shall out yourself, out-

perform yourself, grow multiform—you shall self-identify as

                                  still

mortal—here in this timestorm—this end-of-time

storm—the night comes on.
 
 
Last night came on with you still here.

Now I wait here. Feel I can think. Feel there are no minutes in you

Put my minutes there, on you, as hands—touch, press,

feel the flying-away, the leaving-sticks-behind under the skin, then even the skin

abandoned now, no otherwise now, even the otherwise gone.

I lay our open book on you, where we left off. I read. I read aloud—

grove, forest, jungle, dog—the words don’t grip-up into sentences for me,

                   it is in pieces,

I start again into the space above you—grandeur wisdom village

tongue, street, wind—hornet—feeler runner rust red more—oh

more—I hear my voice—it is so raised—on you—are you—refinery portal

land scald difference—here comes my you, rising in me, my feel-

                   ing your it, my me, in-

creasing, elaborating, flowing, not yet released from form, not yet,

still will-formed, swarming, mis-

informed—bridegroom of spume and vroom.

I touch your pillowcase. I read this out to you as, in extremis, we await

those who will come to fix you—make you permanent. No more vein-hiss. A

                   masterpiece. My phantom

father-body—so gone—how gone. I sit. Your suit laid out. Your silver tie. Your

                   shirt. I don’t know

                   what is

needed now. It’s day. Read now, you’d say. Here it is then, one last time, the

                   news. I

                   read. There is no

precedent for, far exceeds the ability of, will not

                   adapt to, cannot

                   adapt to,

but not for a while yet, not yet, but not for much longer, no, much

sooner than predicted, yes, ten times, a hundred times, all evidence

                   points towards.

                   What do I tell my child.

Day has arrived and crosses out the candle-light. Here it is now the

silent summer—extinction—migration—the blue-jewel-

butterfly you loved, goodbye, the red kite, the dunnock, the crested tit, the cross-

billed spotless starling (near the top of the list) smokey gopher—spud-

wasp—the named storms, extinct fonts, ingots, blindmole-made-

tunnels—oh your century, there in you, how it goes out—

how lonely are we aiming for—are we there

yet—the orange-bellied and golden-shouldered parrots—

I read them out into our room, I feel my fingers grip this

page, where are the men who are supposed to come for you,

most of the ecosystem’s services, it says,

will easily become replaced—the soil, the roots, the webs—the organizations

of—the 3D grasses, minnows, mudflats—the virtual carapace—the simulated action of

forest, wetland, of all the living noise that keeps us

company. Company. I look at you.

Must I be this machine I am

become. This brain programming

blood function, flowing beating releasing channeling.

This one where I hold my head in my hands and the chip

slips in and click I go to find my in-

formation. The two-headed eagle, the

beaked snake, the feathered men walking sideways while looking

ahead, on stone, on wall, on pyramid, in

sacrifice—must I have already become when it is all still

happening. Behind you thin machines that ticked and hummed until just now

are off for good. What I wouldn’t give, you had said last night, for five more

minutes here. You can’t imagine it. Minutes ago.

Ago. It hums. It checks us now, monitoring

this minute fraction of—the MRI, the access-zone, the

aura, slot, logo, confession-

al—I feel the hissing multiplying

satellites out there I took for stars, the bedspread’s weave, your being tucked-in—

goodnight, goodnight—Once upon a time I say into my air,

and I caress you now with the same touch

as I caress these keys.

Forgiveness

              for Dad

I’m writing you
         10 years later
    & 2,000 miles
                 Away from 
    Our silence
My mouth a cave
That had collapsed 
      I’m writing
  While you 
You wear the
                Hospital gown & 
          count failures
  Such as the body’s 
Inability to rise
             I see your fingers 
Fumbling in the
       Pillbox     as if
             Earthquakes are in
    Your hands
                I think it’s time
    For us to  abandon
Our cruelties
             For us to speak
So     s    o    f    t 
We’re barely
                Human.