A visit from The Healing Muse: 'Fathers'
Deirdre Neilen, PhD, shares a selection from Upstate‘s literary journal, “The Healing Muse,” every Sunday on “HealthLink on Air.” Neilen is the editor of the annual publication featuring fiction, poetry, essays and visual art focused on themes of medicine, illness, disability and healing. Read The Healing Muse Cafe Blog.
Today‘s selection is "Fathers" by Jamie Wendt. Order your copy of “The Healing Muse” today.
Deirdre Neilen, PhD: Jamie Wendt is an author of a poetry collection called "Fruit of the Earth." She gave us a beautiful portrait of a father-daughter relationship in her poem entitled "Fathers."
Father and daughter stitch their shoulders
together in the hospital room after
her mother/his wife escapes her body. How
does the lover's loss listen
to the 16-year-old's piercing silence?
They each break inside a future, without.
One of them places hands on knees,
bends a body, vomits into a bucket. One of them curls
fists, opens bluish lips as skin turns ashen, a rapid pulse. Life
is a conscious effort in a hospital room.
The daughter inhales antiseptic, the waxy polished floor,
yellow skin fainting to musty gray, tumor scented.
What do the eyes of a grown man
see at the loosening fatigue of his daughter?
Her wordless stare, her arms and legs collapsing
like an old, wild and silent tree.
Who is she?
Can he be a father alone? How does a man do that?
Children have lost fathers to wars. It is 1949.
His fingertips pace across the floral wallpaper.
Losing a devoted mother is a fairy tale,
a haunted, meat-infested forest
ripe and full of honeybees.
In a few years, she will marry
the young truant man who swing dances, tells embarrassing jokes.
Sitting at home at the curtained window, a father
digs a grave for the rest of his life.
Plans a wedding. Pays bills.
Keeps perfume bottles on his desk like gold.