It’s my turn now to go in and see him,
Father, almost finished with living and
dying. Mother takes my arm and opens
the door and almost pushes me forward
as if I’m still too small to have courage.
Come closer, son, he says. Of course, I say.
He’s looking at the ceiling. I almost
look, too, but I’m afraid I’ll see God there.
Sit beside me. Of course, I say. And do.
I take his hand–he was holding it out
for me to take, I presume, palm upward
though, as if to receive something. Now we
hold it fast between us. He rolls his head.
He looks at me. And smiles. I’m going soon,
he says. I wish you’d stay, I say. I need
you. No, he says. You need to let me go.
Well, I say. I don’t really have much choice.
I start to cry. In books it’s called sobbing.
Now, now, he says. Death’s no time to be sad.
He sounds as if he really believes it.
Its sounds as if what he’s saying is true.
Alright, I say. If you say so. I do,
he says, firmly, as if he’s death’s master.
Then I believe in God. I hope it lasts
but I know it won’t. The ceiling again,
as if he’s reading something there. I know
you’ll lead a good life, he says. I’m certain.
That’s good news, I say, though I’m not so sure.
Believe me, he says. It will be good and
when your time comes to lie in my place then
you’ll be satisfied and go willingly.
He’s talking like a prophet now. I chance
that he knows something I don’t, even in
death as he did in life. What do you see,
Daddy, I ask. What’s waiting over there?
He shuts his eyes. What’s waiting over here,
he says. Which here do you mean, I ask. Which
here is here? And then he’s gone. Or I am.
I place his hand at his side. I kiss him.
I back away from him. I keep my eyes
on him. I reach behind me to turn the knob
and let myself out. Mother is crying.
It’s over, I say. And it’s just begun,
and we embrace, and it’s the end of time.
Gale Acuff has had poetry published in Ascent, Ohio Journal, Descant, Adirondack Review, Worcester Review, Danse Macabre, Maryland Poetry Review, Florida Review, South Dakota Review, Santa Barbara Review, and many other journals. Gale has authored three books of poetry: Buffalo Nickel (BrickHouse, 2004), The Weight of the World (BrickHouse, 2006), and The Story of My Lives (BrickHouse, 2009).
Gale has taught university English in the US, China, and the Palestinian West Bank.
© 2010, Gale Acuff