Father, dying / by Risa Denenberg
You tried to vomit the past. A bolus of chyme clutched
like cement in your gullet. No rustle of mercy whispered
in the room. Your tongue was stuck.
While dying, you tried to excise the past as I stifled
bitter words in that airless mortuary. Cursed be
the idolatry of devotion to others. Ban odors of dank
bedrooms, thoughts of miscreation, wrath masquerading
as language. What then of vestigial love? Of heritable
longings? Of airless anger that strangled?
For years, I bowed to rules that proved false.
You were a passel of gifts not given, sweet gestures
withheld. I bowed to you
in your last slumber, felt a moment of comfort
at your deathbed; now each night fathers
queasy dreams of being silenced forever.