Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Father and Son Road Show

By Sherman Alexie

The doctor tells me my father's story,
How he'll die if he stops dialysis.
"First confusion, followed by lethargy,
Then toxins shut off the brain." I hate this

Doctor and his certainty, though I wish
I could hate my father and his weakness.
Of course, I'm lying. Most days, I would kiss
This doctor as he tends the sugar-soaked mess

My father has made of his life. I confess
To loving my father, a gentle man
Whose brutal thirsts have left us all bereft,
And so bereft, I'm to give a command

Performance—a road show, a song and dance—
And convince my father to continue
Dialysis, no matter how he's planned
To die or not die. I don't have a clue

How to begin this time, though I've rescued
My endless father endlessly, traveled
Two thousand miles to buy him a shoe
To fit his amputated foot. Unraveled

By the simple act of living, marveled
By the mundane, my father mowed the lawn
Like van Gogh painted and spread free gravel
On the driveway like God created dawn.

God, how often I woke to find him gone,
Fleeing the children he loved and could not feed,
As if leaving made magic, a spell-song
That conjured fruit, milk, bread, fish, egg, and seed.

Come back, come back, I child-cried, I need
My father to return. Now, a father
Of two open mouths (and souls) who need me,
I'm a primitive: I hunt and gather;

I build totems and pyramids; I'm fur
And claw; I believe animals can talk;
I know the world is flat; I'm the cur
Raised by wolves; I worship corn, leaf, and stalk;

A child of the sun, I've learned to walk
Upright but still run on all fours; afraid
Of the dark and fire, in love with rock
And fire, I huddle alone in caves

And pray to my ten thousand gods; I pray
To my father's ten thousand gods; I pray
To my sons' twenty thousand gods; and I pray
For protection, courage, and strength to stay

With my father as he chooses the way
This machine will help him live or not live,
As father and father-son separate,
Loose, broken, dissolved by dialysis.

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