Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Thoughts about My Father, Thoughts about the Theatre

"The Dresser" Undressed

Back in the theater world, I am upstage
touring the black flats of the studio theater
where my musical will go up in five weeks' time,

recall learning the Dresser's monologue where
Sir was Dad lying dead, and how I choked back
revulsion but felt drawn like a magnet. "Enjoy

Magnet Ale": the swinging sign in a damp jigger
of some anonymous town: all in repertory, dead Sir
and my late father, emotions laid bare, staged

illusion, grief and fear, real and faked,
my wounds bleeding and festering, exposed
to the audience's stares and indifference.

My coffee sloshes at the dining car breakfast:
eggs sunny-side-up, hash browns; my guts watusi.
I sit uncomfortable with two old geezers, strangers,

on the Crescent heading north through the Blue Ridge:
the playwright-lyricist-poet at breakfast naked
as pink-purple redbuds smear the Virginia woods.

Christopher T. George

A Gaping Hole

Here despite the day's temperature I am always cold
in this hollow that holds memories of you and the others.
I run my hands through the ashes: cold cold ashes,
dampness in my mouth, the taste of earth, clay, bones
and I know the absence of you, what you might have been.
Argh! There's never enough of you to hold onto.
I try to grab on but you sift through my fingers.

An illusion -- of course, it's not really you,
and you must think me crazy coming daily
into this pit of absence seeking you
-- when you have escaped, eluded this life,
I do so hope, gone to a better place, leaving me
in this bitter place, this puzzling hole,
cold ashes, cold to touch, a taste of winter
at the height of summer. Where are you, love?

Christopher T. George

Dad, You Never Knew Me

Dad, I sifted your ashes through my fingers,
secretly in their copper cube, while Mom slept.

The urn sat on Mom's Scan coffee table;
the spring night shifted as the light gray powder fell
through my fingers.

There was something blue and turquoise
in there, plastic from the cancer clinic maybe,
the color of the kidney-shaped plastic bowl
into which Dad spat blood.

Yes, Dad, if you died again
I would do it once more.
At that moment, a sudden urge to reach out to you.

Dad, please don't hate me for what I did.
Alright I was curious. Dad, don't be angry!
Mom, sleep on sedated, sleep on,
the St. George's ferry's leaving the dock.

I received the ashes that morning.
from the crematorium of Evans Funeral Chapel,
from the young undertaker;
he had shaken hands with me,
his lilywhite hand was cloying, sweaty.
The fuschia upholstered room was quiet, cool.
Outside: mid-April -- forsythia thrust up
strong, yellow against a blue sky. The smell
of new-mown grass; kids batted a baseball.

Why did I do it. Was it revenge? I don't know.
Dad, you never knew me and I never knew you.
My fingers passed like a pitchfork through
your cancer-riddled body.

As I left the funeral chapel, a white van braked.
A Bob Marley lookalike got out, rainbowed knit cap
over his dreadlocks; he delivered a basket of orange
gladioli; "I Shot the Sheriff" blasted
from the van, his totemic head bobbed in time.

Mom and I had promised to sprinkle
your ashes in the sea off Bermuda's south beaches.
The holiday we spent riding by moped
from one end of the island to the other,
from St. George's to Somerset,
the water on your knee you received when you fell.
We smiled at lunch overlooking the reef:
chomped liverwurst on rye with mustard and onions,
sipped Heineken as we gazed over the crystal-
clear Atlantic, surf broiling round the coral.

Later, my wife accused Mom and I of exploiting
your death by holidaying in Bermuda.
The perfumed paths of snapdragons and lupins.
Was it sick to share a bedroom with you, Mom?

As I sifted through the ashes, a mockingbird stuttered into song,
somehow off to the side I saw you nodding
approval. At least I hoped I did.

Dad, you never knew me.
Perhaps by running my fingers through your ashes
I could reach a union with you
I never did in life.

Dad, were you really watching me?
I felt the movement in the air.

Christopher T. George


Sherry Pasquarello said...

i loved the poem, "a gaping hole"


Christopher T. George said...

Hi Sherry

Many thanks for your kind words. Much appreciated. :-)