My Father's Soul Departing
Assume, dear vagabond, you are permitted
One last survey. Your twenty-one grams of sentience,
Little soul—the weight exactly
Of a ruby-throated hummer—shall hover
The foliated stamens of your
Earthly measure. How you dart & pivot,
Honored guest, your thirst unquenchable.
Here is Milbank, South Dakota,
The saffron dust bowl where your father,
Dear comrade, raises his belt to crisscross your back:
The five & twenty lesions. Here the state hospital,
Your mother ballooning with insulin
To induce the coma meant to cure the demons
Marauding the precincts of her abject brain.
Now you shall depart: a milk run in Duluth,
A quart bottle bursting on a frozen stoop, then
A troop ship bound for Tunis, & into those regions
Of desert where you wander your forty days.
You rifle the pockets of a dead Wehrmacht corporal:
Luger & a snakebite kit. & now you lean
From a baggage car door, hefting a postal sack
As the train slows for a station—Breckinridge
Or Sleepy Eye—slows but will not stop
For twenty-seven years. The railroad men's
Hotels along the tracks, pulls of bourbon
From a dented flask. The white Dakota plains—
Fogbound, anesthetized, & barren.
Montage of seven Chevy Biscaynes, the songbook
Of Earnest Tubb. A shingled ranch, deriving from
The GI Bill. GARDEN SIX TWO FOUR
SEVEN SEVEN, the receiver lifted from its cradle
As you weep to a stranger who's purloined
Your pension. Pulls of bourbon
From a highball glass, from a coffee cup, the thrall
& ratchet of ECT, your dress rehearsal
For oblivion. What I remember: your laughter
Did not serve you well. Honored guest, comrade
Of the body, your farewell is complete.
Blessèd the descent which beckons.
There, everlasting, your mouth's stitched shut.
AGNI Issue 76
Copyright © 2012 by David Wojahn
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission