All The Things I Kept

By | 1 May 2019

Grief is the feeling you have
the process you pass through
like a tunnel but more
physiological / a response to losing
some thing / some one
you once loved.

So when they call to tell me you are dying
to describe the room in which they have laid you down
to tell me that my mother is there by your side
and my sister is on her way and all the four horsemen
of your personal apocalypse have gathered
at the window to wait and watch you as you go /
when they tell me that your breath is slowing / that your
heart – that stubborn muscle –
beats irregularly now, is falling still, is stopping
now stopping
now stopped

Grief is not what I feel

Three days later I wake
far from home in a dark town

We have lost two fathers now
Mine and yours in quick succession and
Although I have nothing to say
I get up and lay out words on paper
because I need them, because
they are the only things that make sense in this
insensible world.
I need them to hold me here
on this side of whatever wall there is between us and our dead
I write down my second father’s name
and the name of my first father
and my own name
and your name
I write down the first words I knew and then the last
each on a new sheet of paper / but there is
something wrong
each time I lift the pen the words are gone

I do not know the names of things
there are no words for this

I am
far from home in a dark town and the words – all words
all language – are draining from me like the blood
they drained from you after you died.

We are empty now
We are hollow

Soon, we might truly become
what we first were.

He keeps coming back
old ticker, old fucker
his hands reach around my throat and
I can feel the heat of his
burned skin
the stink of his breath
the grip he has on me

but then he is fading he is turning
to smoke or, no, it is more like the air
of the dark separates him from himself
As if the death outside of him
has collided with the death inside him

soon, they will meet on the surface of his
disrupted skin

I am alive, he says.
No, I tell him. you are dead.

We spend weeks, months, in this dance

We go around in circles.
It is as if I am
roadkill and he is waiting. He waits
the way a vulture waits
by the side of the road
waiting for a break in the traffic
to strike

We don’t bury our fathers / any more
We don’t lay their bodies in the earth.

There are no memorials for the dead white men
who loved us / who hurt us
whose fists broke and then mended
our hearts / our bones.

We burn them like Vikings …
not really. There are no warships / flaming on open seas.

Only women in suits
who sit us down in air-conditioned rooms
serving tea and sandwiches
while your bodies are cleaned and plasticised
prepared for viewing

Days later, your body is delivered
into a furnace that burns without flames
And your ashes are vacuumed up
by a certified technician who seals you
into a baby-blue plastic box
in a white cardboard box

you are heavy, now,
your death has a material weight
you sit in the corner of the room

one more thing
to move around

My family cannot agree on where to spread your ashes
and so you are divided
one last time
my mother’s portion
is weighed in the kitchen scales

A kilogram of your ashes for her
and another for each
of your children

It is a kind of joke / this last quibbling
over where to throw the soft grey
flakes – the divided portions that remain

I hear a rumour that my mother
poured a cup of you into the toilet
and shat on you one last time

I can’t take any of this seriously without getting
everything wrong

But how else are we to take ourselves, our lives,
given the seriousness of our plight?

I wake in the night / choking again on
your hands drifting down the channel of my throat

I hear you laughing in the next room
telling stories in the last person.
I hear you telling the moon
that a story is not what’s necessary / not what’s needed
there is no way to make any sense of things, no need
for a story

only a life

I wish we could message the dead
I would write to tell you all the things
I kept from you

I would make you listen
to my heart keening like a curlew

I would make you feel the tendons / crack

I would make you feel the throb of that mended
break in my arm and the dimple in my
skull from where you
slammed my head against the wall

I would make you vomit up my other, first, father
give him back to me, goddamnit
give him back

he was not yours to eat / to love
to lose

September. The season turns and you
are still not here

I take it back, old man
I take it all back
I take it hard, I take it harder than I can explain
We are here, far from home
in a dark town

there are no words

there is no grieving for the ones
we never loved
the ones who never loved us in return

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