Thursday, April 19, 2012
So rare was his warm touch on my head or skin
I cannot remember it, the waters of childhood
turning murky with faults, foam receding
from toes in sand as I watched him battle
the waves, a feeling of things shrinking
away from me underfoot. He was powerful
then, his muscled body glistening,
his legs contesting currents. I thought
for a while he was the strongest man
in the world, one who could tame the sea,
command the beach, own a kingdom.
He was a romance—his body
magnified, separating light
from darkness, forcing water
to swallow defeat.
Cancer shrank him in old age.
I was not with him when death came
in the municipal hospital, his lips
parched, the intravenous drip silent,
moonlight grim upon the window.
He died in his sleep, unable to reach
for water on the table, unable to gasp out
his plague of thirst. His mouth
a small black hole, caught
with grotesque suddenness
in the rigor mortis of unspoken
havoc. It locked open
in a silent, parched cry.
A strong man shrunk
into the final truth of mortality.
How small his emaciated body seemed,
its bones and shrivelled skin
relics of an ultimate
But he has grown
in me as I stir memory’s water:
His story from another century
bearing me with it, washing away
darkness, despair, devastation,
yet leaving the face
of a dead man, diminished
in body, and a dry ground
his shadow in the grave,
and a pain greater
than pain, immeasurable
distance from here
to heaven, unforgivable.
This poem from the collection appears in APP with kind permission of the author, Keith Garebian.