64: coma, canto 17

canto 17

finally it came to be
that after dinner
with my mother and father
my father put the truth
on his desk,
the same desk
at which he’d
expressed his
years of work
with deepsleeping
into published
papers, a book,
at the desk
where, I remember well,
one evening,
he reached for the lamp,
turned it off,
which is as plainly
as I may put it,
leaned back in his chair,
wrapped the long fingers
of his hand into a cup
of longfingered respite
or interlude,
leaned back in his chair
with those fingers
supporting the back of his head,
and said, That ends the day,
with slowness, more space
added between the tones,
providing a heaviness
or profundity to the sunlit hours
and to the labor
that shaped them
and, therefore, a lightening,
a palliate quality to his chair,
to the fingers
at the beck of his head,
to the emancipation of night.

yes, he unrolled
the truth on the desk top
like an old general some ancient map
of forgotten campaigns
hard fought through hot
and stony terrains
where soldiers
departed the fields
lighter in actual weight
with legs, arms, eyes (about an ounce)
where, at night,
dying, resting, or cleaning
their gritty guns,
they’d watch the erratic wing slash
of spasmodic bats against the moon
and dim illuminated
spaces between the stars,
the wing movements
like the brushmarks
of artists madly grasping
for the very notion of the rapid
and for the beauty of speed,
unrolled the truth,
he did, and I watched
his hands; I watched his eyes
as he smoothed
it out, placed heavy
objects on the corners
to keep it in place.

he began with a lie:
I saw all those things
in my sleep: ponds,
rippling waters,
Noah’s beard,
birds under arching,
which is the shape
of their feeding
nigh the lake shore,
Heaven’s gate, yes, I saw,
and Peter there motioning
me to him with the soft
hands of the very long dead.
No, he said:
I saw absolutely nothing.

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