Addressing the Council of my father's body

 

Council, I have been walking around my father’s fruit

farm all day under the proselytizing sun,

thinking of what to say to you.

 

I counted the pomegranates trees.

There are sixteen and on those only three

round fruit left, hideously lesioned and sick

 

and yet when I opened them, they were ripe

and begging to be pulled apart, so I ate them

and thought about how the cells on my father’s esophagus

 

multiply and crystalize like a stalagmite.

Council you have disappointed us. For 62 years

you have held one hand over your eyes

 

and waved the other over my father’s throat with great 

power you were not appointed to exercise. 

I implore you

 

   watch his head like a water-worn creek stone

being carried upstream—there through the window,

when he is able to make it to the toilet to empty.

Council, you have robbed of us time.

 

Cost him liters of blood and loose shit. You have taken

from us talks over sinks, beer bottles, middle consoles.

Have ripped up carpets and tent floors, sod,

    and fresh compost. 

 

He lays surrounded by pillows,

propped up on his side to vomit into a box

lined with a Harris Teeter bag, his port open

like a straw for the life to climb out.

 

Council you owe us an explanation, an apology.

Can you hear me? The pomegranates are lonely. It is night.

My father wakes every hour in unfathomable pain

    to peer at them from his bed.

 

He just wants to know who will care for them.

Who will gather their roots up in cupped hands to kiss,

water, and twist free.

In baptist country 

there are snakes 

under every rock,

pomegranates the size of heads,

apples tight as fists.

 

I am afraid 

to pick them, 

perhaps one will speak

from the worm-crater

—come, child,

 

put your mouth 

to the base of this tree 

and drink from its clay

the volumes of blood

I have seen.

 

To taste is to know.

I want to ground myself 

to keep from floating

towards grief,

 

so I bury both fists

to the elbows. I go to sleep

and rise to see 

what has awoken 

in my palms—

old curse, new song,

shoe-string root.

 

When a Jew dies

it is customary to throw dirt 

on the grave in a conscious act

of reluctance then surrender.

 

One does not show up

with the coffin already below,

the tombstone shining.

I want to watch my father

go home, hear the thump

of coffin like a new tree

touching where it will stay.

 

Inside I know

his bones, each pore,

the singular edge

of his adam’s apple

drooping

 

     the way a fruit

does until it is nothing

but country.

Rae Hoffman Jager is the author of One Throne (recently defunct press *sad face*, 2017). Her most recent manuscript, American Bitch, was a semi-finalist with Sundress Press and Birdcoat Quarterly. Rae's work has appeared recently in Orange Blossom Review, Forklift, Ohio, and Glass, a Journal of Poetry. Her work has been described as rambunctious, urgent, funny, and elegiac. Rae holds a BA from Warren Wilson College and an MFA from Wichita State University. For more information, you can visit her website at www.raehoffmanjager.com

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