Dennis Haskell, Part III

4 Nov

One last poem from Haskell for today, probably my favourite of his.

 

“Temperatures”

My brother and his wife had debated

whether to let their young daughter come

but she’d insisted, driven by a strained,

wanting-to-be-adult curiosity.

Stepping through the solid, salubrious,

clean brick entrance,

the light guardedly unglaring,

time seemed shut into itself,

the air had a lingering, sugared warmth.

 

When they wheeled my father in

I held my mother on my arm

like a reluctant suitor.

He was in a white box,

laced up to his chin

with a frilly, idiotic daintiness. Suddenly

she leant her frail weight

upon me, her knees bent

and bent, and bent,

sinking

towards the face

that had once been my father,

and remained fixed so long

I thought she would never rise,

her lips stuck to its coloured cheek.

‘He’s so cold’: the words entered

the air from a voice

achingly unlike her own,

‘so cold’. And I, the eldest son,

the reliable one, was lost

 

in that moment, forever.

Sincere words were as pathetic as silence.

The truth of him had left us

and entered the shyness of death.

 

My niece stood there

with a wild-eyed innocence

being cast aside. I finally raised

my mother with a shuddering arm

from this cruel imitation of her husband

innocent of us

in his Antarctic box.

 

Now just to recall those words

before his ultimate reticence

is to dig down in myself

scooping up the granules of dirt

where he lies in me

so deep, so cold.

 

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