Web Conjunctions: Arc XX: Paterfamilia, by Andrew Mossin

CONJUNCTIONS: A Web Exclusive
Arc XX: Paterfamilia
Andrew Mossin



“Pilgrims of mortality, voyaging between horizons …”
—Henry Beston



1.

Of surrender or denial, surrender and denial
what voice will you offer to the dead
what alphabet to the suffering.


My father’s head
dis-
                     embodied— two
                years in memory
           a meridian drawn down
                          my daughter’s spine.

What location to turn
     to—here there is always
    the return—inevitable
      first song.








2.

Nothing is as we
    left it. February
   returns—

    time without odor
   the door removed
      from its frame

Judas bush beneath the window … 
    cold brown earth
      around the rim of ash. I
   scattered him there—and watched
            as rain soaked down.









3.

Merely to submit to
    days as they come. A is for
   Ash Wednesday—St. Anthony—
      a man’s brow smeared
            at dusk.








4.

What can we remember—
    April rains
   her tummy hurts she says.
      White belly
    underneath blue
      “long days passed like this.”








5.

Outside and in. The
child’s scream
      “shivering with shame …”
      a mirror
         cast back 40 years.








6.

God is in
     shadow—
    we can only
     ask meager recompense—
      say what you will.








7.

“larks of heaven perch and nothing”

Your happiness—false
     starts—
      trapping sorrow
     & joy together.
      We remain so
     ignorant—
      mired in loss.








8.

    “if you don’t
want us who will …”

    My daughter’s voice
   raised—afraid or
      ashamed to
    say, “you don’t have to
        punish us … we
      only know so much”








9.

    Dead limbs and
   cardinal flowers. I envisioned
      “the moment of trees & the
    suddenness among
        thwarted winds”

In the briefest way … asking you here.








10.

    Walking ahead
   we risk
     losing the way—her
      voice in mind.

Sun at the water’s edge
      —capitalize each first letter—
     down to the level
      with water

   I chastised no one
     & turned—shamelessly—
on a pivot of vast
      immured time.









11.

   Her head sunk
  into me—
     my daughter takes her
   hand—runs it
      down my leg—
   is odd—to be taken care
     of— fatherless now— here
                              at all.








12.

“That’s the day
  penciled out”
      over and done—scribbled
    between the lines—
        “Father … where
       you going?”








13.

What did she
mean—“There could
   be such a thing as
     too much feeling”

Following others into the world
   back again to these
several rooms—

My heart isn’t
   vacant—no longer
  virtuous. One’s body
      inclining past 40—
     resolute
                at each passing wave.








14.

“The crow wish’d
    every thing was
   black—
      the owl
that every
   thing was white”

   On the floor
  atop news
     papers—

arms loosely
        falling against
      smooth grain skin.








15.

    Morning the body
   is hers—or mine
      alone—seen
  or unseen—“I see
      your pee-pee”


   In childhood
physicality without
      shame—sweet
    transience—mortal
           light of
      daybreak—








16.

     Yesterday you came
                     back—

   vigilant in your time

          —not to say
       we are healed—but transposed
   as if you knew that accord
                   could be reached … 

     I studied your face
      as you knelt
     beside my daughters—
                sinecure of the
      feminine—
                clot of shadow.








17.

    “I didn’t mean
   to say any thing—
      you hadn’t given me
   the chance, it was
       just silence—”


  A form of greeting
      nude in the starlight
  endless wild uprush
             of your hand
    in parting.








18.

    A cloud
   cusp of silver
     downdrafts of wind—
season come to its
       close—

      “a half-moon
   over lights in the west—
          shadows of birch
    against the sky.”

—20 February 2005