Grandfather

He does not sit. He lies;

drifting, sometimes, into the room as if coming through the window,

eyes wandering like young men wander the bodies of lovers.

I do not know if he knows what he sees.

I do not know if he knows I am here.

I do not know if he mourns.

He once hunted beasts on the Prairie. His father took the sword to Africa and thrust it, shining, into the ripe earth.

There were no words then, for this madness:

to linger, bleating like a gazelle in the lion’s teeth,

heartbeat,

heartbeat,

compelled by white sheets.

He was the man who was ageless.

He was the man who was ageless.

He was the man who tamed the wild lilies around the cold dam in winter, his dark back glistening with water.

He was the man who persuaded earth and stone with his hands.

Who I feared, and who made me fearless.

Who didn’t listen to my father that day on the hot lawn.

Who my father ignored that day on the hot lawn, when the sun broke upon our backs, and we all slipped into silence like a cold bath.

Who wore his muzzle like the rest of us.

Who put on his muzzle like the rest of us.

Who doesn’t feel me grip his elbow above the cannula as though I were his disciple.

Though I call to him, finally,

he listens now to those who call him louder and more insistently than I.

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