To My Father on the Death of His Father, first appeared in Ars Medica, summer 2007

To My Father on the Death of His Father

You told me you could barely remember him
holding you as a child, so I can only imagine
you cradling, in the crescent of your arm,
your father’s head, bald and dimpled
as the golf balls he fetched from the lake
of the golf course he mowed as child.
You held his body draped in white
hospital sheets like the fish he wrapped
in newspapers and sold to tourists.
IV’s wormed their way through his veins.
Hooked to the gills like a fish caught
between two worlds, he gasped for breath,
grasping for something eternal.
The God of Abraham will cradle you
as a child, you whispered, as his heart
slowed to a whisper, and his lungs expired.
Beneath a towering Joshua tree,
you buried his remains— 8 pounds
of ash and bone, already taking root
beneath the green grass of the country club
at which you said he worked his youth
away, mowing the golf course to a tee,
years lost with every fistful of ash tossed
through the Joshuas shaking their claws
at heaven, contorted into question marks
at the end of a life sentence.
You floated through that golf course’s lake
in a rented boat not altogether
unlike the soul-laden body adrift
through any night’s cold, dark, indifferent air,
knowing we’re all born beneath one roof— this sky,
and all must shoulder the blue beyond.
The morning sky is a blank sheet
spreading out before me,
lacking stars and infinitely
wide and deep as the sea.
I look up past the blue beyond
to God, who is everywhere
but here. The austere trees hold up the sky,
but death is all that shadows us.