10 September 2007

Grace Simpson

[from Grace Simpson's Dancing the Bones, 2001]

Trying on His Body

I dragged the cane-bottomed
wheelchair down from the attic
and sat, right arm dead,
hand curled shut.
I crammed my foot
into his built-up shoe
and braced against the footrest,
even screwed my mouth
like his. Not enough.
I had to go
to the high oak bed,
crawl into his hulled-out shape
and become a paralyzed father
begging for the urinal,
while the little girl patted her doll,
pretending not to hear — until
he turned his face away
and wept, and she did
that indecent thing:
grabbed the chipped
white pitcher and shoved it tight
between his naked legs,
not looking, while the shuddering
rush of pee splattered
the sheets and the loose
enamel handle wobbled
in her grip.

It all came back:
the sharp ammonia smell,
my red shame,
his hand on my head,
drawn mouth slurring
Bless you, Daughter.

Father, I still hear
those garbled words.
Now, after fifty years of need,
I accept your absolution.

Dancing the bones: Poems

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