Sudden Movements

My father's head has become a mystery to him.

We finally have something in common.

When he moves his head,

his eyes get big as roses

filled with the commotion of Spring.

Not long ago he was a man

who had tomato soup for lunch

and dusted with the earnestness of a gunfight.

Now he's a man who sits at a table

trying to breathe in tiny bites.

When they told him his spinal column is closing,

I thought of all the branches he's cut with loppers

and piled and burned in the fall,

the pinch of the blades

on the green and vital pulp.

Surgeons can fuse vertebrae,

a welder's art,

and scrape the ring through

which the soul-wires flow

as a dentist would clean your teeth.

And still it could happen :

one turn of his head toward a hummingbird,

wings keeping that brittle life afloat,

working hard against the fall,

and he might freeze

in that pose of astonishment :

a man estranged from the neck down,

who can only share with his body

the silence he's pawned on his children as love.

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