The Body That Used To Be My Father
by Lisa Haynes

    The last memory I have of him is this:
    the body that used to be my father
    laying in the box my mother chose the day before
    right angles everywhere
    a square burgundy room, an oblong box
    rigid people standing like obelisks - orderly
    controlled, whispering and squeezing hands
    eyes tightly swollen like port-holes
    on a sinking ship, and heavy curtains
    solemn and straight as a Sunday morning sermon

    Some numbers are sacred. For me, it is seven
    the age of my body the year of his sickness:
    A new, green shoot sprouting into long
    thin legs and arms. Breathing, reaching
    while my father's body spent the same year
    wilting, his rice paper skin fading to paler
    and paler shades of yellow gray
    like a neglected photograph

    My lover is nearly fifty
    seven years older than my father's total.
    His hands are hot with life like grass
    beneath the sun, the pores of his skin
    pull and release his breath.
    Every hair on his body curls at my touch, gives way
    leans toward me, meets me halfway.

    I listen to his chest at night.
    It rumbles and beats, speaking in
    foreign languages I am coming to learn.
    I know the vocabulary of his lungs, the grammar of
    his heart, the pronunciation of his stomach
    and his bones. I love the slick, red-blue blood
    pounding through his veins
    how fierce and determined it is to pump and push.

    Even so, I know this:
    as much as I love his blood, I could hate it
    if it were to give up, stop cold
    thicken into red-black coagulating puddles
    drawing away from his feet and hands
    falling into the pool of his torso like water
    spiraling down the bathtub drain. I would hate it
    as strongly as I love it.
    Hate it like I hate my father's blood for giving up.

    At seven, I didn't know about embalming.
    I only knew my father's skin was false and flat
    his body solid with death in that mahogany box
    his pink, blushing spirit uprooted, tossed out
    the power of his blood to keep him here, gone.

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