56: coma, canto 13

canto 13

there are metaphors
for swords, the seas
swishing beneath the deck,
the wind blowing
in phrases tornados make,
but they would be false swords,
I suppose, opening wounds
in the skin but false wounds
bleeding false blood,
as we speed closer
to the enemy’s shore
where they wait
with their weapons
drawn and their lust
like false molten metal
going white at the sight
of our boat
on the horizon coming.

my mother, in the rear garden,
seated, said, Well, I don’t know,
I don’t know what to say,
say to him, and expect anything
better than someone else’s

that was weeks ago
and in the same garden,
she sat still, the sun
going in and out
in and out of high-passing
clouds, with a sword
on her lap,
and across its edge
she passed a stone
for sharpening it.

while my father sat
in the room with books
books of poems and stories,
books on the brain,
books on coma, one of which he’d
written, and declaimable
word for word,
books on geography,
books on history,
books on gardening, one of which my mother’d
written, but which was undeclaimable,
and apparently unreadable
by my father, as, for him,
the pages of books,
the forms of letters
on pages, were to him
false letters, false forms now.

he told me:
I don’t know
why to tell you this,
tell you that the letter L
is a G, or so I’m told,
and it’s unconfirmable by me.
Because to you it is a G,
I said, but others say it’s an L.
Quite so, he said, and he
leaned out the window
to the woman in the garden
and called down:
Maybe it’s supposed to be a G,
and she called back:
It’s unbelievable you never
read my book. I, she called back,
tortured myself on yours.
God, what other lies
did you tell?

he said, Bah,
and closed the window.

none of this I cared for;
none of this was more necessary
than the question I brought,
the question I brought
persistently and for which nothing
more than silence he gave back:

what did you see, I asked,
a week after he’d woken:
tell me what you saw,
I said, as he buttered some bread:
tell me what you dreamed.

he smiled, the weeks
ascended on short,
overburdened legs,
he smiled, quoted nothing.
he smiled and quoted nothing.
Was it waters? Was it a ladder up?
Was it a gentle old man
you spoke to in your sleep?
You must remember your
image of heaven. You always
hated that I never believed
or trusted them: your images
of heaven; your stories
of coma: the images of water,
mediation, the women who said:
I was with my dogs that had died;
and others, who, as they approached
their plateau’s of recovering, said:
I walked forests; I floated
on the softest cushions;
I remember the voices
standing at my bed side:
your image of heaven
as ladder up while away
in the distance the machines
sing their songs.

do you want to know
do you want to know
what I saw, my son?
do you want to know
do you want to know
what I saw, my son?

yes, I insisted,
I want to know what you saw.

he smiled in his room
full of meaningless books.
He smiled from the kitchen table.
He smiled from his chair
in the living room,
smiled with a sword on his lap,
the edge of which he tested
for sharpness with his thumb.

he said,
it was all those things
every one of them.

now, please,
if you wouldn’t mind leaving,
he said.

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