Poem 76

Kenneth Anderson
upon realizing your eulogy wasn’t the only think I wanted to write for you
Your voice will forever be the putter pause
Dial tone waiting on the other side of a tethered phone
No one will be answering. Wait three reasonable rings
before collecting my thoughts into manila envelope voice messages.
Assuming too that there will be a hand to press the button and hear me
later on later on later on
Walked towards the door with no handle; with my father on my shoulders
expecting you to look like yourself less a decade of sleep, without shutter eyes and
Powdered smiles. I was ready to see the pencil effigy of eighty three.
Braced molars for impact. Saw instead. Reclined and receding
a wax man melting. Why must the failing liver corrupt the skin;
a yellow bees wax man melting into his bedsheets, burning at both ends.
I will forget the wax man. I will forget the paper skin yellow, but not the bees.
Just a year and a half past with the sun on our faces. And the new dog you didn’t ask for
Panting in your lap making you feel young again. I perched uncomfortable on the edge of
a porch chair trying to avoid the inquiries of an impatient bee. You smile. And I smile. The dog readjusts. And we are just. We are just. Just. Just sitting. Maybe that’s all people ever do.
I am collecting the sun in my fingertips to revive a page later on.
I am collecting the excuses for being so far away in a bucket across my shoulders.
Struggling to forgive myself for being twenty-two and across the map.
I beg your forgiveness. You asked me for water.
A wax man has no time for apologies. I chose the wrong university.
Never honest enough to admit that I tied my shoes with plane tickets.
Ever sure that at eighteen I had the right to leave. The right to pull up the roots of this life
Trudged forward to wisdom while wise men of my own waited for phone calls.
As a child I was your clay. The thick fingers pulling at my back and shoulders.
Pinching. Pressing. Pouring the peach across some flat surface. Sculpting perhaps
your best attempt at a second try. I would never know the difference in the crooked family tree
That this man or another was supposed to root with my grandmother.
No other worthier man would have pulled me to pieces. But it was I
who put your toes together as you laid there reclined looking at me like a stranger.
You laid there watching while I read old poems. The only happy ones I could find.
About anticipation, fear and delight. What does one read a dying man who will know
no more of these tribulations. Reduced to speculation and the taste of clay children
in his fingers sitting delighted upon his lap hearing war stories of pulling teeth in Vietnam,
Tonguing our own canines just to check. Perhaps he had pulled them already.
while we were sleeping… what does one think of a man who dies sleeping. I’ll know
later on.
–ECW
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