Cancer (Prayer for my Father)

by Joanna Klink

Joanna Klink

Far into fever, attached by cords
to the clicking machines, he sleeps
in a bed in a room not his own.
People enter and pass like ghost-blown
fogs. He is a slow walk
with limbs that recently gave way.
He is part of the blue snowfall.
He is very small, sitting on a curb
with skinny legs next to an elegant
aunt. He is not yet born.
He travels to meet the relatives
in Maulbronn and feels the lifting darkness
sunk in his chair at night, thinking.
He is intensely wrong, obstinate and generous,
the one who never seems to grieve,
sweaters and wine and violas locked in
air. You say: he too cannot be found again,
he too asks only for more aliveness
and time. The room is like every room
in that house sterile and never silent,
but sometimes birds drop into the air
above his sleep and coast for hours
on loose currents. There is no fire
but weathered blood and skin, a threaded
endurance, the peace
of placing your body in the hands
of those who might know,
the voices saying Have you eaten,
What could you have done.
The frost in your eyes is melting or stays
stitched. The fragile instruments of bodies
step into the room and out, the machine
counts two three four, and part of who you are
travels into the glass hallways that are filling
with warm light. He walks
only for so long. He approaches each sorrow
and lets it fall. He is unaccountably at ease
for just a single instant, he is
not an important name, he is the crucial man
inside the waning fever, the one who taught you
to care, he follows the deep tasks
even as he surrenders, one by one, his body's
dignities. He is the concert of bright strings,
the sudden gentleness of moss,
the tyrant opinion, a confusion of medications.
His mind is a room casting infinite love
from four walls. My beautiful father,
you carried me out into the day of my life
and let me stand on earth with affection
and force. Why should we fear our disappearance.

Last updated October 12, 2022