Reading to My Father
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
mortal—here in this timestorm—this end-of-time
storm—the night comes on.
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
needed now. It’s day. Read now, you’d say. Here it is then, one last time, the
read. There is no
precedent for, far exceeds the ability of, will not
adapt to, cannot
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
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.
Copyright © 2015 by Jorie Graham. Originally published in the September/October 2015 issue of the Boston Review. Used with permission of the author.
Jorie Graham was born in New York City on May 9, 1950, the daughter of a journalist and a sculptor.
Date Published: 2016-03-30
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/reading-my-father