Today my father returns as a fox scrambling to get off the road and into a copse. He looks up at me passing by in my Highlander for a fraction of a second, confirming his suspicion that I would never live up to his expectations. His big red tail—he’s always been so proud of it— slithers away into the shrubs. As a bird, he looks down at me in pity. As a deer, he stands at the bottom of my driveway and gives me that long sad stare. As a rabbit, he takes what he can from my garden. Then, in a blink, he’s gone, and I’m left longing for his return. For he loves me, in his way, the way a fire loves a tree.
Turn the Key Deftly
I spend all morning pulling words from a dead man’s mouth. At first he resists as only the dead can giving me the glare of one who’s always felt misunderstood. Then he gives in, and I feel his body grow light in my arms with the unburdening of a vocabulary lodged as if in a little vault behind his ribs. He could be my father or he could be an older me, this is still unclear, even as the words
he’s kept hidden for years spill out, which is a way of saying there are mercies in this world that beg to be said aloud, mercies to be heard at last. There’s no pain now, he tells me, although he no longer has a face but a hole the size of a face where his face used to be and when I reach deep inside it my fingers wrap around a pistol— its hard, cold grip making my hand feel alive for the first time.
-- Henry Israeli is the author of three collections of translations and three collections of poetry, most recently god’s breath hovering across the waters (Four Way, 2016). He is also the founder and editor of Saturnalia Books (www.saturnaliabooks.com), Associate Professor of English at Drexel University and Director of the Drexel Writing Festival.