Writer in Residence · 01/21/2011

What We Dream About the Fathers

in response to “Fizzle #6” by Samuel Beckett

A Flicker Against the Blue

No but now, now, simply stay still, standing before a window, one hand on the wall, the other clutching your shirt, and see the sky, a long gaze, but no, gasps and spasms, a childhood sea, other skies, another body. Flickered along the sky, against the blue, and you, a gaze faint beyond your mind, and you, beyond the tissue, the low grass soil, those ants and bees, this father’s body you have been, a body existed long before you.

Beneath, now, the flicker along the blue, this hum of flies of bees of what has been. Now, the hum of father before the wheeze of machines, oxygen and dialysis and monitors, all the hum of life sustained, pressing and vibrating, before the still and silence of death. Before the low hum of flies along the blue. Now the low hum of father become again as father before this end. Hear now the birth and life and death of he you have been and loved and despised, this father you have known, a flicker against the blue.

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Always Crashing in the Same Car

Hear now the birth and life and death of he you have been and loved and despised, this father you have known, a flicker against the blue. The birth and life was a fact, the death a shock. You didn’t know he was capable of it. It was the last time you saw him, the car as always. The last time you saw him, the woman as always. Always a car, always a woman, but never the same car or the same woman. Never the sense of growing old. Only a growing larger. Never the dignity you’d supposed a father was supposed to possess. You heard your friends speak of their fathers with respect, with fear coming up through the telling like thick pipe smoke. You heard you friends speak of their fathers and you wondered what was wrong with yours. You wondered why he sailed in storms, why his only speed was fast, why he never seem to care enough to smack you around the way your friends fathers’ did.

His life was a series of crashes, your father, a series of near misses and saving graces. Before and after you. He seemed always to be testing gravity, to be chasing the dash and slap of adventure. He towheaded and six-feet-four in his Dodge Charger, a god in a machine. The roads of the world set down for him to play on.

So you tell yourself now that the gods do not raise children. Their children spring out full grown or nearly, warriors and weapons already. How disappointed your father must have been when you emerged so weak and helpless, a bloody, tragic thing. How he must have stared, doused your mother in silence — how he must have wished you burned with the trash heap. Yet he chose to endure you and for that you have always been grateful. You have always been willing to bring him food, to clean his wounds, to hand him his spear and watch as he writes his name in the biggest spaces under the sky.

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The Humid Dark

You have always been willing to bring him food, to clean his wounds, to hand him his spear and watch as he writes his name in the biggest spaces under the sky. You have always fed him the oil clumps of roast goose and duck while the aluminum tin of his canoe skimmed the green-black. The crisp beaks and the molted over eyes of the creature you pulled fat fistfuls of. The way his eyes skimmed along the peat and black, the way his eyes searched for the yellow eyes beneath, even as he chewed the greasy meat from your hands.

You have always found him asleep and unmoving on the floor of the boat, along the moss’d shore, fallen over the white sand dusted dock. You have always found his mouth full of crabs, of ants. You have found his eyes molted over with sleep, with dried blood, the brown-red lines from his split brow. You have ever found him moaning through mouthfuls of animals, of shells.

You have ever reached into the darkness and felt the shapes of teeth that were not his, gold and silver and what else, plastic. You have sunk your hand to the wrist in the humid dark and there you have pried free the life ever struggling therein.

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The Last, At Last the Dark for Us

You have sunk your hand to the wrist in the humid dark and there you have pried free the life ever struggling therein. You are the one that has done it, you at last. You are the one who holds the young new life up for all the cavers to see. Mine, you say, and all the cavers nod and gibber agreement: yes, yes, yours. The she-caver is sprawled in the dirt and straw behind you. Her moans mix with the screeches of the young one and you kick her away; she is beyond use now. She will bleed to unknowing, to dark, to the filmed eyes and the thick tongue. They all do.

This was the last female left. Or she was, until today. The seed you planted grew into a new one, the first new female in many seasons. The good new dream for the cavers, made real, made true. This is what the tree caver has muttered for, has dangled branches in fire to find.

The squalling and squirming suddenly stop. Your arm goes heavy. The cavers go silent, and you push your head into the face of the young one and stare. The filmed eyes. The dark web of the mouth. Your belly is a house for flames, then, and you are seeing the end of yours. There will be no more cavers. No more young ones. No more spaces for your seed to grow.

The cavers scratch at the dirt, make sharp sounds of hard, of sad, of ending. You will hunt for you now, and you alone; the things ahead will never feed your kind. The things ahead will grow and shift and plow through history without you.

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The Evolving Flesh

The things ahead will grow and shift and plow through history without you. The things ahead will grow large. They will fatten and breed. They will build houses on top of the houses you have built. The endless rows of lighted windows. Of children lost in the television light. Of children with eyes black and fat in the weird glow.

Aside the evolving flesh of sons and daughters they will become as you have ever been and regretted. They will become stern and vengeful with belts. The flat of their palms will stride across sons and daughters in the light of televisions.

The things ahead will become yellow eyed and hissing in the flickering glow. They will become green scaled and eternal beyond the way of fathers. They will unhinge their mouths and unfold into a valley of teeth. The laughter of their sons and daughters ever lost and echoing throughout the caverns within.

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The City of Fathers

The laughter of their sons and daughters ever lost and echoing throughout the caverns within. The fathers bring their babies here soon after they enter the world, and here the children live with almost-toys and would-be-songs buried under the limestone.

Above, the city unfolds like a massive, solemn labyrinth. Its green is the green of graves, where all but the fathers dwell in slumber. The mothers lie entombed and spent. Grandmothers with rustling lavender shadows drift the length of the hedges, longtime and practiced ghosts. Only the fathers are foiled by the secrets of the maze. Only they must make sacrifice to the shades who hold the maps.

Give us the children, the shades say, and the fathers tremble and flicker like flame. Give us the wives, the shades say, and the fathers cover their ears and curse their broken compasses. And after years of wandering in circles and squares, curlicues and whorls all leading to the same dead ends, the fathers must agree to the shades’ demands or go lost forever in their dark and hungry city. The fathers nod and say they will, they will, to everything that’s asked of them, and in return the shades are suddenly kind, eager to be of service. They spread their maps and show the fathers how to make a new way home.

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Trapped & Stillborn

They spread their maps and show the fathers how to make a new way home. They burn the fields with gasoline and lit branches and there a blackened pathway born.

Along the cindered avenue trudge fathers in boots smeared with soot. Trudge fathers along those prairies as flat and black as asphalt.

When they hunger those fathers pull the black soil open until they find the boiled husks of prairie dogs. Dead in the fuming caverns and pockets of dirt below. Jellied eyes become a delicacy in such a land.

They return home weeping and apologizing. They return home and clasp you and those mothers tight. Thereafter the blotted faces of mothers. Thereafter the blue-fumes trapped stillborn in your throat.

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A Song of Glass and Endings

Thereafter, the blue-fumes trapped stillborn in your throat.

Thereafter, the dream of steel and lead, of lunches born of lugnuts and tumors.

Thereafter, the rumors of planned ruin, of windows stretching sea to sky, of whitewashed walls and concrete foundations.

Your father lies on his back, a long grey mess, his architecture taped to the ceiling so he can find the formula. Pieces unstick and litter his shoulders, his chest, his face from time to time. He ignores them; he is muttering, finding the formula, alone in his mathematics and his grief. He draws glass pane after glass pane in the air, rubbing his thumb against the surface and smiling at the the soft buzz it produces. Yes, he says, if I can build this room from glass, from nothing but glass. If I can build this room I will see right through to the ends of the world. I will see the way to find my son.

But Father, you say, I’m here. No need to find me. I’m here.

He waves you away, stumbles through a dream about glass pipes, about the opacity of blood. You leave him sorting through his plans. You leave him, knowing you are not the son he dreams of. You are not the son he would make a miracle for if he could. Glass and grass and dirt and blood, cooked in tubes and sprinkled in the cave to raise the corpse. You are not the miracle at all.

No but now, now, simply stay still, standing before a window, one hand on the wall, the other clutching your shirt, and see the sky, a long gaze, but no, gasps and spasms, a childhood sea, other skies, another body.

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posted by First Footing