Monday, August 11, 2008

On His Deafness

I never knew my father when he could hear
he sat alone so often
silent in his silence
and that appeared as normal to me
but now I wonder
at his struggle
to live in the land of the whole
and I wonder
at the demons he fought.

He lived alone and unaided in the world of sound
his work his life, his companion
and with patience he listened
to every voice soft and loud
and spoke carefully, low and melodic,
in a well modulated, resonant voice
never slurring nor blending
nor blaring the words
in atonal unawareness.

As a child I begged him to read aloud
and the Kipling rolled off his tongue
I can still hear him now
the old salt reading Gunga Din and Mandalay
with feeling which transcended my understanding
but pierced my soul
I still have his old book of Kipling
water-stained, battered and brittle
from a hundred sea-bags.

Once he put his head into the space of my piano
listened and withdrew his head
and told me to put my head in there
and play a bit
a dissonant, echoing sound
a mix of unpleasant highs and rumbling lows
assaulted my ears
when I withdrew my head he told me
that’s what the world sounded like to him.

Now when demons beset me
I wonder at his strength
and sadly recognize
myself as one of those who weighed
heavily on his shoulders
knowing that I only took and did not give
that I left him alone and unsafe for all time
pretending he could never wear down
until I saw him dying.

He wrestled demons and put them down
until that old demon death appeared
his hand clasped mine in a rigid grip
but I again too late too little too weak
and with nothing to give
and he worn and wasted waited
until I had left to surrender
and when I returned all was gone
but for a silent husk.

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