Thursday, February 23, 2012

*Poem: "North of Houdini"*

I have never seen someone
assert themselves as little in the
coffin as your father today.
Shadow of his former selves,
if it had not been for your
mother's cascade of recognition
the moment we approached the metal box

I wouldn’t have known him at all,
despite seed catalogs, chocolate bars,
lap blanket the coroner
threw upside down over his bottom half,
legs as inconsequential as Jerry Mahoney's,
formerly full, white head of
Irish sea foam retreating
back into the skull from which
it bloomed eighty-two years ago.

I would never have known
by the cemetery full of boat names,
Murphys and Donahues, lacking the
Polish alphabet of reasons
my ancestors possess in their
own private hunting grounds
just north of Houdini.

Joseph, your brother, lies patiently
at your father's bare feet, himself
small shadow of alternative ending,
wings folded, carefully diapered
in the way they diapered babies
fifty years ago, never having lived
long enough to see his father's
purple irises wave like an ocean of mercy
across one small Pennsylvania yard.

Joseph, it is your turn now
to feed him the candy bars,
help him grow strong and masterful.
Your mother is here, and on this end,
we will keep her busy, keep her from
needles and alcoholic rainbows,
until it’s time to make the hole
a little wider, accepting into it
one more lily of this man's field.

CAR  2/15/12

1 comment:

Marta Szabo said...

Wow, Cheryl! Incredible poem! Beautiful, complex, gorgeous words, flow, images, emotion...yowza.