Patrilineal

Patrilineal

I.

he remembers the day you brought the camera home
it was a bulky thing, a friendly mammoth
I like to imagine your face behind it was smiling
though you never enter the frame

there are fifteen children at the party
seven of them yours
in colorful hats
you circle serpentine with the cords wrapped
on your wrist
sweating under the weight of the machine
but you bear it
because these are your children, seven of them
and they glow with rosy energy
the way the sun does just before it
vanishes in a golden streak

there is no sound but I hear jimmy dorsey
muted trumpets and a walking bass line
though I know almost nothing about you I imagine you
danced often
uniting limbs in singular purpose

then the woman’s voice sneaks in
and you are legs and arms, skin
made up of cells in constant motion

there is nothing still about you

you are as fast and sprawling as the city
the tumbling whirring parts of a portable radio

but I cannot name even one thing you loved
though you are the last remnant of a lineage
as untranslatable as a foreign alphabet
as necessary

II.

only months ago I learned
that there was no rupture or report
as I had envisioned ever since the day years ago when
I found out it wasn’t the war
or cancer of the bone
as I had always been told
but slow asphyxiation
a word too cold for you by half

you weren’t the one who taught him to sing, but

you must have known that day the light
would go out of his eyes
as he sat cross-legged on the blue and white quilt

we can only find it now on that magnetic strip
the film you labored for
then shadow-puppet it on the walls
as gracefully as jellyfish might move
as delicate

I know the craving for destruction
the fascination of a welt
the withering of the spine of the mind
until it curls in one long whip
like the dried peel of an apple
still
I wish I could have met you

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