Poem: Father in a Box

By: Janna Vought

fatherinabo

Daddy’s dying, doesn’t know
my name. Machines next to the bed
hum him a lullaby. A fly escapes
through an open window,
into the unnatural bright day. How
did we get here?
I used to be young. Now, I sit,
draped in black, haunted
by ashes of my past,
death so close, dark
embers of today.

Images on the back of his eyelids:
children, grandchildren, snapshots
captured against dim shadows, waiting:
quiet, still, merge with heaven.
Everything disappears.
Witness the shell of my father
shriveled, terrified.
Silence stretches between breaths,
fluttering chest, brows heavy, brown
eyes reflect mine, call of our ancestors
back to earth/ground, unpaid debt now due,
a shadow of things to come, the root
from which I grew. You built me,
every bone/curve carved
from the stars in the sky.
Lift him. Eclipse the sun, a bird
revived, ascending, hush the moans, fire
consumes bones, and then came the sun,
continuing on. Daddy, don’t die, leave me
alone.

Daddy died.
I wrap myself in mourning.
My feet sink into his newly dug grave.
A lone blue mountain
cowers against the horizon.
Daddy lies white-faced, still
inside his casket (Father in a box).
Mother weeps. I touch
lips to his marbled cheek.
Sunlight breaks thunderheads
of my emptiness; birds continue to sing.
All things come to an end.

Daddy floats among broken clouds.
I don’t know if I believe
in God or an afterlife. After Daddy died,
I reconsidered, thought I might go after
him, try to catch up. My dog
barks at blank spaces on the wall.
I take rest on stone
benches in the cemetery,
attend church to see if Daddy’s there.
He survives
only in my dreams, dining in exotic locals,
walking along multicolored hills:
Morocco, Italy, Katmandu—
liberated. Soon I’ll forget him,
locked away in memories,
buried inside my cries.
A quiet ending.

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