A Poem And A Photograph Of My Father

Dad, Hoboken 1973


I accepted your invitation
to accompany to your death
at the end of the winter
of your normal existence.
On the flight to the motherland,
covering fears with smoke
shared over a continent made up
of the states we had crossed,
meeting with ancestors south
of the wife and daughter
that continue to postpone
their well deserved joy.

Sowing peace by the roadside,
planting pleasantries of gold
over the forgotten grievances
that never inhabited your breast
punctured in repeated symmetry
by the totalitarian bayonets
of your sister and your brother
and the Bolshevik friend—now judge—
covering their blinded eyes
with the tainted hands
of complicity with ignorance
dripping the blood of red lies.

I saw the coldness of dead tears
in the paternal shadow stream
over the edge of the stone.
A contraband of used flowers
lead a morbid procession
of untraceable footsteps.
After a failed last attempt
to rescue your tired face,
I left for the nightly dance
in search of the elusive liquid balm
that temporary flesh perspire
while you slept by your ma.


I documented the last miles
of the fatal approach
to the point etched in time
that finalized your being
and ripped mine in halves.
Testimonial to unanticipated
darkness in prey—at the turn
of a murdering route—
to cripple, to rob, to maim
the returning prodigal sons
to the land they never left
and vowed never to return

I woke up to the death
of you in my trembling arms,
as if asleep to the deafening
cries of your only son—
this boy of your pride—
screaming not to be left alone
in a world of blind grief,
unspoken words of the heart,
pain yet to come and unattainable plans,
calling your brief name
not to be left behind.

I struggled to contain the essence
of life escaping your eyes
in the back of the car
provided by the rescuing hands
belonging to unknown angels
of mercy that I could not thank.
They took your wounded body
of Forty Seven views of March
and realized how futile it was
to continue to try: I watched
with incredulous eyes as a doctor
shook his head no, no, no three times.


Not trusting my bloodied eyes,
I resurrected your life
for the three critical days
I walked in darkness
holding the intermittent hands
of separated childhood friends
who would not take away
the illusion of you I held—
like the mortally wounded gasp
for the elusive gift of breadth.
My soul’s twin can only prescribe
compassion at the foot of the bed.

In spite of the charity
of each brother, sister, friend,
I embarked—bandaged and alone—
in the pilgrimage east
to where you lay, dressed in blue,
in a simple pine box, a gift
of the state that desecrated
the destiny you inherited and
ransacked the house you built
in the name of urban reform;
they gave you a free burial
in exchange for your labor’s of slave.

All your friends came
and the friends of your orphans
to walk with your widow
to the stone eroded by three decade-old
tears of anguish.
Black eyes in deep sockets
looking down at empty hands
that excavate the barren ground
—to tired to extend condolences—
they only shrug their shoulders,
look to the distance and sigh
the deep sighing of regrets.
I have no memory of the time
they lowered you to the earth!
Why in hell can’t I remember?
Is like never saying goodbye, or
turning my back to the loss
of your smiles, the serene
disposition of spirit you wore.
I tried remember once, twice, til
the spike of unbearable truth
plunged me, head first
in the muddy waters
of a black sea of lost souls.

I walked alone into the sea,
the muddy waters climbing up
my being until I was covered
with the putrid film that clings
to decaying flesh and bone, being
Forty Eight months drifting at sea
—unable to drown pains for long, or
reach the receding beach
of a harbor devoid of lighthouses—
I was rescued by a passing ship
on a day when the weight of my errors
buckled my spine and I fell to my knees.

Today, I inhabit this shore where
I died and endured rebirth,
still nursing my wounds, still
searching the waters for victims
of other drowning attempts, and
with each rescue, I rescue myself.
Only recently I’ve come to accept
the undeniable fact of your absence,
the void that runs through my hands
since your departure last century.
For the presence of you in my life
I now call myself—your son—blessed.


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