Order poet Sheera Talpaz writes on the her father and the death of her favorite poet.
WITHOUT WHICH WE CAN LIVE
For my father
& in memory of Taha Muhammad Ali
Congenital, in spite of everything, is the tree’s decay.
The moth lingers, wolfing the sap of a wounded tree,
its rotting fruit. The rain lingers. It may never leave us.
The city, too, will never leave us, even after the storm
clears it clean. The storm will clear the city, I said, and
the gale will tip the vessel, and the wave, it will engulf
every last passenger, leaving the captain’s apprentice
washed up at sixteen. My sense of humor, too,
will be condemned a natural disaster. Congenital,
the lights come extinguished –
the floodlights, the fog lights, the fixtures nearly
falling off with them. Father, I was born genial –
it was a con. I was born fearless, but I earned each anxiety
like a Girl Scout who forgets to sew her badges on.
What, I ask, will be left? Your honesty will never
reassure, will never realign this, the crooked
hem of my dress, the momentary lapse of judgment
and the yearlong sorrow that follows –
how I never remember my medication.
What’s forthright swerves into the contour of a scar.
The scar languishes in the sky, it scrawls a constellation.
We crawl under the stars and call it gravitation.
We crawl under the floorboards and call it shelter.
Assemble me, I beg, until I forget to falter.
Sink me in a bed of flu shots. I will ingest hoarded
medicines in case the day is here. Rue the rotting
house and the moldings stripped bare in the attic.
Repent the unsturdy architecture, refuse the creak
and shake of each stair. Recover the wreckage,
revive the remains, redeem the panic –
redeem me from this panic –
the wood eaten by white ants, by hysteria itself.
Cough in the air in the attic. In a remote corner,
uncover a nest among the narratives.
The bird, at last, never appears.