Nine Sonnets for PopPop’s in the hospital
a slight stroke we figure
but in allopathic terms
Speech difficult to initiate,
non-fluent, labored, and halting.
Deficient intonation, stress patterns
& language reduced to disjointed words
and poor sentence construction.
Sounds like poetry you think
while Josephina arrives from Yakima
trunk full of hand-made corn tortillas.
The heat more than a large can of salsa
can take with the two hour ride over the pass.
Resurrection Hospital where the Sox
could not sweep the Cubs today
adding insult to a speech-addled Father
we’ve always known as fluent
in his condemnation of all things
like Republicans. FDR gave me
Social Security and LBJ Medicare
but these assholes then you try to change
the subject back to baseball.
He was even guarded last year
when the Sox won it all saying
they’ll probably get swept in California
when they did the sweeping.
That picture’s still my screen saver.
No, you think, their lab experiment
is your father and you know the drill
drugs, surgery or radiation
they’re not going to use radiation
Ma says and don’t lecture and Linda
says He’ll only listen to you and you
can only say I’ve known him longer
but to see him break down
and cry. We’re all gonna die
and death is no failure
but who dies on their own
terms without the Kervorkian
treatment, thank you but no
Jack, I can’t hear a click.
There are kids in the lot
cooling off from July
in the early global warming
era, someone has to rescue
the frog, but in Darfur,
death. Plants and animals
are migrating towards the poles
as we set this old spaceship on fire.
Meantime, tortillas, a dip in the Stuck
tender feet don’t like the feel of rocks
and Pop breaks down when the tongue
won’t cooperate with the brain.
Such perception The Chinese
will take us over without firing a shot!
Nations are permanent
as July you want to tell him
but remain silent that he gets it
and no one has to break it down for him.
But the break down of the arteries
and the brain parts that depend on them
means the break down of, not our
patriarch, but Pop nonetheless
crying at the hospital and some
part of that emotionally-blocked
bloodline bubbles up into consciousness
and you’ll end up being the last
too smart for I told you so
contending with your own fire.
Too much fire in the liver
the heart, the blood, fire
in that old goat, fire never
replenished as in the way
of the old ones, fire coming back
to bite its master, fire never studied
allowed to lick where it chooses
all the lack of gratitude
fanning that ancient blue flame gone
awry as if you knew how the creator
intended it. Pop, he don’t have no
language for it and must settle
for a language older than words
and now all we can do is count tears.
Take a stubborn motherfucker
and hope for grace. Stain
the prayer rug or ply your
spiritual habits down by the river
and maybe the water bodhisattva
has an answer and maybe its
in a tongue you can negotiate
or maybe you just get a gist
or a gust of wind liberates
you from your spit
and you learn to take agony
and be a shop-keeper about it.
Selling enough to keep yourself
in bread, bananas and beer.
All his lessons seem
to come up now, the ones
about what you can get away with
and that you should show up
on time to work. The lesson
of rising early and joining
the union and paying your dues
long into retirement. What
Lech called Solidarnosc
how a red flag rises
out of blood but when
the blood is undone by fire
or begins to lose its way
and that eloquent man reduced
You want to think about his stain
how he had the sense to bring
more fire to a bloodline
and more important, heart.
When his brothers died
when he was not yet ten
he did what he had to do
to survive. And you got that
survival like a lifetime
of clenched teeth and a way
out of wilderness via helicopters
over the canyon and a tuning
of fix that fire into a mode
where somehow there’s a Gracias
in all of your grief.
8:08P – 7.2.06