I see them as alpine spruce,
tall sentries on the mountain slopes
that surround a man-made plain, an ugly flat
carved from glacial stone.
(I am the town that gets built there,
McDonald’s and an airstrip on pressed gravel.)
I see them standing shoulder to shoulder,
gallant soldiers in a storybook rendering of war,
a ballet about the Imperial Russian Army
that retains the glamorous furs
but empties them of corpses,
blood unfurling as ribbons of silk.
I see them as vertical shafts of light,
squared by trapdoors in a stage.
(I am the phantom between the pilings,
sabotaging chandeliers and young love.)
I see them as portraits of royalty.
I see them sprayed with acrylic.
I see them as a needlepoint sampler,
flowing script that reads: everyone suffers.
I see them in black and white on TV,
beaming with the irreproachable, white-toothed
goodness that warms the living rooms of a nation.
Our father asked to die at home,
so Rachel tore out the shower doors,
installed grip bars and a new toilet,
cleaned the gutters and the roof.
As she drove us to the hardware store,
we passed a van for a service called
Daughter for a Day. ‘What is that?’ I asked,
‘What we’re doing right now?’
‘They’d call that “Son for a Day”,’ she replied, wry.
Rachel crossed two thousand miles of open ocean
in a sailboat, broadcasting coordinates by satellite
so I could zoom out and out on Google Maps,
see a pinpoint in endless blue. Rachel built a cabin
on some cheap land in eastern Washington,
fell while ice climbing and survived by inches.
I said I saw him most in her.
The light eyes and dark skin, straight wiry hair
you could use to suture a field wound.
More and more, they are giants and dragons.
I can’t see them on the paper-covered bench
at the doctor’s, or in their cubicles, or in their urns,
squeezed into the puny, flammable, human world.
I see them hoisting steel beams barehanded,
eating whole cattle sacrificed by villagers,
razing fields and scorching the sky.
I see us having milk and cookies in the kitchen
the night he died. I see us huddled in church
the next morning as strangers sang around us.
And if I must be the bard, then one who tires of
songs about devious underdogs,
admires instead the raw strength of Goliath.
Artwork © drwMrk