The Miracle Man
The stars were elegiac. That I listened to their light, to find a light I could return, I was buried in their shadows. Burning colder than their catacombs burying the sky. And no more atonal than antiphons, forgetting their return; my shadow was not small enough, to disrupt their church. And yet I was suspended, waiting for the light that would recover them. When everything was a ghost, and no less dead than haunted. The voices became me and I was destroyed, to manifest myself. The hospital was safe when I was fatal. I waited for the stars in my room. In the shower that went off every four minutes. In the talks with the psychiatrist; they were only manifestations of my mind. I needed the discomfort of becoming, more than I would cure. And yet no more tragic, than expired; I broke my chrysalis. To be home I became more unreal. I wanted consolation; the reach of a birch or a haunted wood. I called my poetry my mouth. Auden’s way of happening. I postured Eden apple black. And too harrowed for the snake that made its fall eternal. Even eternity was tragic. And heavier for the sleep that made me small. It kept me impossible. I would not burn cold as the stars. I was too ancient to be young. The schizophrenia and Lupus, became my wasteland and my pall. When my father passed, I believed his eternity would be my return. Heaven was only reached, when I listened for its absence. I carry a necklace he gave me, as a talisman. A gold angel set upon a black surface; a star too gilt to invade the sky. And even for this invasion unreturned. He was considered the miracle man. Even with metastatic melanoma, put into remission when I was a child, after numerous surgeries, a death sentence, and an experimental program at NYU, he was brave enough to become his death. I admired his awareness. That I became more of a poet, struggling with disease, beauty was impossible. I only discovered beauty, when it buried me. Dad retired the FDNY as a captain; he was not fluent, but could pass off Russian, and even told me Nabokov was a master of puns. He painted, and knew more of science than anyone I had ever met. He skate boarded. Surfed. Truman Capote hit on him in a Montauk bar. He even revised The Fifty Stanzas of Chauras in a letter to my mom. Never knowing would he die. His love was “ropes of flowers in the night.” And never more heavy, buried in snow. Every summer, when I was a child, we would go to the beaches off Dune Road. He would stand in the water, pushing me and my sister on our boogie boards, until we hit the shore. I loved the brine. The shells. And the starfish we collected, so alien when they washed up. And with an awful fetor, we could not bring them home. Summer and Fall were Arcadia. We went off road at Cupsogue; we parked at the Shinnecock Inlet. Everything I touched became a dream. And I would not be its waking. Goldengrove had not unleavened yet. When the cancer came back, I fell away from sleep. Most of our time was spent at Memorial Sloan Kettering. His last day there he told us that he had gotten his wish, to see his children grow. I hid the fear I had for him. Death is never close enough, to make us more unreal. I knew what illness did. He did not want pity. All his life he was merciful. When my mom feared she had not done enough, he said, “you took care of my soul.” For all the time we were together, he was brave enough to know that falling was a grace. Just a summer ago, before I left the hospital, my sister came to visiting hours, homebound from Montauk. She spoke of the shack she stayed in. How would it hold up against a hurricane that decrepit? Her remarks took me to our visit there two summers earlier. We drove to Ditch Plains, where dad often surfed. We visited camp hero, where I felt like Ariadne in the grotesque labyrinth. And even more, daddy became a ghost. Our last night in Montauk, on a ledge overlooking the ocean, I drank wine with her. Mom fell asleep. The breezes came as zephyrs. We were fragrant for the brine their shift offset. And in the sky, the stars hung as relics. A white path of light hovered the ocean. It was no more than the moon’s shadow. I did not know what I became, until it reached for me. My return would be no more than my collapse. I was far too much a shadow to forget, even eternity was small.