I’m lying right on the bed beside him.
He keeps catching his breath
from the trek up out of the kitchen.
We’re talking memory drifts—
time that rented Sunfish
capsized in the river, summer
evenings playing catch before dinner,
the night his father died….
This winter day, bright
outside, from here behind
the white curtains no one opens—
a soft haze of the lost
possibilities. He couldn’t say
if it’s October or March—it’s neither.
But this his last February is
itself a river of what
we, together, happen
to remember. He clears his throat,
windpipe boggy already
since he’s reclined—he tells me,
in that gravelly stutter,
his feelings have gotten too strong.
Oh, he knows they’ve been there,
inside his chest all along,
since he was the young man he was,
cruising home from work in the Buick,
becoming and becoming my father—
now it’s harder. Up through the neck
and against his face from behind,
pressing out through the eyes, contorting
his lips—he gurgles, sputters,
I haven’t done enough for you yet.
And fueled by a few gasps,
just as when they lowered his father,
he can’t help it, he cries.
Then it’s over. He continues to forget.
from Watching the Perseids (Sacramento Poetry Center Press, 2014)