My Father Comes Back From The Grave
Poem by Linda Gregerson
I think you must contrive to turn this stone
on your spirit to lightness.
And you, among all the things of the earth he took
to heart—they weren’t so many after all—bent nearly
to breaking with daily
griefs. The grass
beneath our feet. Poor blades. So
leaned on for their wavering homiletic (pressed for
the look-for-me every child appends to absence) it’s
a wonder they keep their hold on green. Come back
to me as grass beneath
my feet. But he
inclined to different metaphors.
the young one, the one with two small boys, the one
what to do when the
gelding had foundered and everyone else was sick
with fear, can no longer manage the stairs on his own.
apt) have so enveloped the brain stem that
his legs forget their limberness. The one
driving it all. The one
adaptable will-to-be-ever-unfolding that recklessly
weaned us from oblivion will
as recklessly have done
with us. Shall the fireweed
lament the fire-eaten meadow? Nothing
in nature (whose roots make a nursery of ash) (but
we . . . ) so
parses its days in dread.
And in that other thing, distinguishing
the species that augments itself with tools.
drill bits in
the present case, with hammer, saw,
and pressure-treated two-by-eights: a ramp
for the chair
that wheels the one
who cannot walk. He will not live to use
it much, a month perhaps, but that
my carpenter, you
have never stooped to reckon. Now
the father, where does he come in? Whose
whose shot glass, whose
broad counsel at the table saw (‘I told
you not to do that’) ever
freighted a daughter’s learning.
was the world of broken things and a principle
meant to be plain. The grass is mown? The people
in the house may hold
their heads up. Not?
A lengthening reproach. And thus
the shadow to your every move. The cough,
the catch, continuo: the engine
that breaches your scant four hours
of sleep. And what should you see (still
sleeping) as you look for the source of the sound?
Our father on the mower making
on the ever-inadequate-hours-of-the-day, as
manif est in your neglected
lawn. Fed up, no doubt. Confirmed
in his private opinions. But
knightly in his fashion and—it’s this
I want to make you see—
in heaven to be called upon.
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