Home >> Volume 2, Issue 01

Estate

William Mickelberry

1.

Death, destroyer of metaphor,
who sends the body alone, unprotected
into the oven,
Death whose only mercy is oblivion,
Death, the arbiter of memory,
the root language,
the betrayer of all tools,
the finger pointing backward
at the hour, the minute infolded
and gone like a curl of smoke,
Death, futureless,
absent even from its own word
yet inscribes its mark.

2.

Windows lost in thought,
the room containing my fatherís body
traveled through its final day,
carrying us, his family,
faster than we understood,
for death is motion,
ceaseless.

3.

Death:
the fingers turn blue,
the horn of the jaw
becomes fixed,
a small promontory.
The body curls slightly,
an emblem
described upon the bed,
an emblem ceasing to mean,
subsiding into linen,
linen into dust blown
from the face of the rock
and the stony, untranslatable,
word-breaking silence.

4.

We lay before the silence
these unique and few artifacts:
a metal tray,
a minuet of sympathy,
a refusal, a book.
None are chosen.
We fold them back into our hands,
holding them undisclosed
until, years later, weakened,
fingers unfolding, we find them
changed, obscure, reduced
to metal and hair
on which we cannot live.

5.

Father, you are with me still.
I have not let you die.
But you are smaller, simpler,
lying upon my palm.
Mother gave me your keys,
your silver coin of fading value,
your life-long stare
out any window
at the undivided sky.
With this hand I gave you
your last breath,
which, now, I cannot
tell you to remember.

6.

I am you
translated.
I am you
finished.
I am you
denied.

7.

Here are the days you wanted.
Here is the answer to your question:
a newspaper, a half-eaten sandwich,
this pencil pressing on the yellow paper,
your wife’s voice on the phone,
not quite the same, but not different.
Little talk of you.
Out the window:
a light overcast, dank greenery.
This is death
as it appears to us,
as you foresaw with your silence
and your long stare.
This is death living
with us.
This is your estate,
which we acknowledge
and, by the mark of our hands,
seal forever.