The hospital where my father is born
sends shadow down Greenwood Avenue
a block to the house where he raises me
though by now the hospital has closed
and I am awful, driven to break in
go mad with abandoned hallways, curtains
torn halfway off their institutions.
Rusted file cabinets give me library
anthologies of modern literature,
deeper files I dare open to cadaver.
Weathered on the roof I yell up God
watch eagles follow the Kaw River west.
I know what they are not why. Against
bright cloud they’re headless, only wing.
At night, the chimney hosts a great gray owl
that does not startle when I take
no flashlight up the nightmare stairway.
My grandfather those same years
with a row of books on his upper lip
sees snakes on his convalescent floor.
Though the only snakes are in his meds
it is true that sick and dying Greeks
take serpent comfort in their cultivation
coax them to enjoy the sun-struck sill,
let them chair and bed legs intertwine.
Just before I graduate and leave off home
the hospital is razed and I watch brick tumble.
Wrecking ball, that heavy planet, enough
dislodges but not what has already become
lead in me. Every doorway is a crossroad
and the moon a dog’s blowtorch. Turns the Earth
its spin-dry load laundering the central scorch
which, constant initiate in the mercy of arrival
has been my cure. My shoes hunger to get
identical with what the sun treads with nightly
abandoning the hospitals of noon
to go mad again in the world’s other halls.
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