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
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
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,
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
the way a fruit
does until it is nothing
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