81: coma, canto 26

canto 26

him, how to describe,
tall, somewhat big round the gut,
though slimmer after sleep,
slenderer on the diet supplied,
wearing neither barbarian skins
nor an old prospector’s hat,
but buttondowns and a tie,
suit pants, huaraches brown,
tan, or white depending.

he with Crenshaw,
discursive on studies, reports,
the latest in the science of the brain,
my father said, swerving, Crenshaw
holding a cookie, unbitten:
I think I know what it means,
his death, his not being here,
he said. I said:
it means he’s not here, Crenshaw
listening for it all,
where this would all go.
Not here, and that in the service,
men expect to be hit, to fall,
to lose themselves in a tangle
of steel, to unload the weight
of their irons into the approaching
soontobedead. It means, he said,
the things we never talk about,
the questions we never broach,
we never want to broach:
I never asked him, Do you want to die,
expect to die,
in the words you say
are a service, the expectations
for special service, death
as sacrifice under stars
that tell a geometry
of a different language?

Do you want to die or do you want to serve,
I said, is a difficult question.
Crenshaw said, And is it easier,
my friend, to put it all together now?
With his unchewed cookie.
With his green eyes shining
under white hair.
Easier to put together a son’s death?
I asked I asked I asked.
We must try? the doctor said.
Yes we must at least try,
my father said.
His loss, his absence, my father said.
His last call, his last thought,
the thoroughness of his bleeding.

and I feared he would laugh,
still struggling against the alchemy
of inversions,
but he didn’t laugh,
no, as to describe him
now required other metaphors,
brightening, rebirth,
newbirth eggbreaking, a stepping forth
from some Dali room, where a man may
scrape his head on a diminishing ceiling,
and rise forth in a rounder space
with lofts and doors
perfect for human passage,
climbing out of the hole,
leaving the ladder-up behind,
the smells down there,
where at the bottom hungry rats
peer up, snap their little fingers,
say, ‘nuther gotterway.

he smiled at me. He said:
I don’t remember what I’d said
weeks ago: I know I couldn’t read;
I know I mixed things up;
I know I knew none of you,
denied you, Judaslike;
but now I know I miss my lost son
and the thought of heaven
again seems peaceful,
where he must be.
Which is, I said, the part I like about you least,
and we all laughed at that,
though why is mystery.
And so he appeared to us again.
And so, longed for other appearances
took on greater proportion,
elephantine or like waiting
for the appearance of Orca
after the seals have gained
shore but the seals
out of their cold seas
they cavort in the water
and we wait and wait
for the whales.

quote me Lear, I said.
He said no.
Quote from the good book.
He said no.
Quote me something from the physicians handbook.
He said no.
Quote me a love letter.
He said no.
Quote me Caesar.
He said no, I’ll quote nothing for you
who believe in nothing
and may never gain
the white room of god.

he turned from us and said,
yes, heaven is a white room,
must be so, where everything and nothing
everything and nothing comes
and never goes,
where everything emerges
emerging, waiting for me;
not sounds, not the restlessness
of lifes on this earth
midst machines, no,
as true Christians, he said,
we must must give everything away,
or we’re liars, thieves, truants,
Malvolios or Edmunds,
all we have give away, he said,
required by the white room
and its lofty silences,
which is indeed, he said, all I saw.

I thought you said
you saw nothing, I said.

a white room; a white room I saw,
he said.

a crafty madness, I said.

Guildenstern, my father said.

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