To know that one accident of ventilation
Blew my grandfather out a sewer tunnel
And lit his slim body like a fuel-soaked
Wick searing through afternoon traffic.
To watch my father's immutable face
Lengthen into a tract of fear that extends
Into darkened areas of the mind.
To say good-bye.
To see the way the skin is stolen
From other parts of the body, the way it's thinned
Out like not enough icing on cake.
To watch the relatives file out into the darkness
Heading for the hospital like emissaries
Bound for strange missions of repair.
To know that this is what awaits. A future
Of fragile sleep shaken by acts as sudden and ugly
As first steps. To go along fearing the post-
World, always trying to gather bits of the
present in clear phials of memory
Like the dust of massive genies
Asleep in tiny bottles.
The day we passed the grizzly cave
My father explained the way they
Lose themselves in sleep for the cold
Half of the year.
The way they garner what they can
In the hollow maw to survive
The sundering of the green world.
To build the will
To shrink into bone and fur
And give their minds to nothing
Long enough for the weather
The way they unsheathe a sharpness
Of sense that can taste the vague
Harbingers of winter. The way you
Always knew too much silence meant
How long has it been since
I've heard the grit of your own
How long since you sunk into that body
To nurse the heat you'd collected
As a child?
What life did we interrupt
With our icicles and wind?
In the echoed woods I can still hear
My question rising up to the throat:
If they're so asleep
How do they feel the spring?
Still, Neither of us seem to know.