78: coma, canto 25

canto 25

but there were crashes:
Crenshaw the doctor said:
Yes, all the words have come back,
miraculous, yes, he used that word,
a word I’m not given
to tasting with wine and cheese.
Miraculous, I said, meaning miracle.
Which is impossible, I said.

Yes, all the words came back.
My father and his great parallel
packages of words,
my father the now retired brain doctor,
as he had the reading
words and the words baked into memory,
declaiming from memory
and reading from the flipped
open text of King Lear, for example, reading:
“Thou perjured, and thou simular man of virtue
That art incestuous: caitiff, to pieces shake,
That under covert and convenient seeming
Hast practised on man’s life: close pent-up guilts,
Rive your concealing continents, and cry
These dreadful summoners grace. I am a man
More sinn’d against than sinning.”

then flattening the book
on a table, standing tall,
closing his eyes,
me, Imelda, Henry, Lucy,
Maricela, Cruz, and my mother
as audience, with the smoke
of a grill for chicken
graying the window behind him,
closing his eyes and saying
from his brain:
et cetera et cetera
all the way to “sinning.”
Opened his eyes, then,
as if the meaning rose
to him like boiling stone from a hole,
he laughed
at the seeming joke of Lear,
said, Lord, that Lear the comedian,
“more sinned against than sinning”
“more sinned”
and so true, he said,
and laughed and laughed.

And note, he said with pride,
there’s the fool, such a tragic figure:
“Prithee, nuncle, keep a schoolmaster that can teach
thy fool to lie: I would fain learn to lie.”
reading from the text,
then closing the book,
repeating the process,
but at the fool used the nail-side
of his finger to catch
a rolling tear.
So sad, “nuncle,” “nuncle,”
such a sad thing to say,
my father said,
his eyes shining with salt.

and back to the apartment
we went, Imelda and I,
Henry and Lucy, Imelda and I.
Backward he had it, I said.
Yes, he had it inverted, Imelda said.
Confused the laugh for the cry, Henry said.
But he has, Lucy said, all the words back.
Did you see how my mother
watched me watching
and saying with her eyes:
don’t ruin it, you, you?
And my mother insisted Henry
do the coals and cook the chicken,
I said. Imelda, Henry, Lucy watched
the lamps of the city buildings;
they watched the billboards
repeat repeat repeat;
they watched me turn
this way and that way
the car.

how is that a miracle? I said.
How is that a miracle, Henry?

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