Linda Gregerson

(August 5, 1950 / Illinois)

My Father Comes Back From The Grave

Poem by Linda Gregerson

For Karen

I think you must contrive to turn this stone
on your spirit to lightness.

Ten years.
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
paltry, perpetual,

raiment, return,
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.


Your neighbor,

the young one, the one with two small boys, the one
who knew

what to do when the
gelding had foundered and everyone else was sick

with fear, can no longer manage the stairs on his own.
The wayward

cells (proliferant,
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
part, O

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.

Whose work
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

modest assault
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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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, September 14, 2011