After I've goosed up the fire in the stove with Starter Logg so that it burns like fire on amphetamines; after it's imprisoned, screaming and thrashing, behind the stove door; after I've listened to the dead composers and watched the brown-plus-gray deer compose into Cubism the trees whose name I don't know (pine, I think); after I've holed up in my loneliness staring at the young buck whose two new antlers are like a snail's stalked eyes and I've let this conceit lead me to the eyes-on-stems of the faces of Picasso and from there to my dead father; after I've chased the deer away (they were boring, streamlined machines for tearing up green things, deer are the cows-of-the-forest); then I bend down over the sea of keys to write this poem about my father in his grave. It isn't easy. It's dark in my room, the door is closed, all around is creaking and sighing, as though I were in the hold of a big ship, as though I were in the dark sleep of a huge freighter toiling across the landscape of the waves taking me to my father with whom I have struggled like Jacob with the angel and who heaves off, one final time, the muddy counterpane of the earth and lies panting beside his grave like a large dog who has run a long way. This is as far as he goes. I stand at the very end of myself holding a shovel. The blade is long and cool; It is an instrument for organizing the world; the blade is drenched in shine, the air is alive along it, as air is alive on the windshield of a car. Beside me my father droops as though he were under anesthesia. He is so thin, and he doesn't have a coat. My left hand grows cool and sedate under the influence of his flesh. It hesitates and then... My father drops in like baggage into a hold. In his hands, written on my stationery, a note I thought of xeroxing: Dad, I will be with you, through the cold, dark, closed places you hated. I close the hinged lid, and above him I heap a firmament of dirt. The body alone, in the dark, in the cold, without a coat. I would not wish that on my greatest enemy. Which, in a sense, my father was.
From Then, Suddenly--, by Lynn Emanuel. Copyright © 1999. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press. Available at local bookstores or directly from the University of Pittsburgh Press:
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Born in Mt. Kisco, New York, in 1949, Lynn Emanuel is the author of several books of poetry, including The Nerve of It: Poems New and Selected, winner of the 2016 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, andThen, Suddenly, which was awarded the 1999 Eric Matthieu King Award.
Date Published: 1999-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/burial