Jul/Aug 2018 Poetry

Three Poems

by Rachel Dacus

Image courtesy of British Library Photostream

Image courtesy of British Library Photostream

Surgery Prayers

I woke on the day of my brother's surgery
with a terrible urge to phone him,
though he was already under
that unnatural sleep when they open you.
They'll do that precisely on Tuesday at 8:45,
and he's requested prayers to be delivered
from everywhere, like instruments passed
from hand to gloved hand.

Even unbelievers ask for healing hopes
on social media—and we sheepishly say,
Have our good vibes, our healing wishes,
afraid to name the Source
of beneficence in such a material age.
But when life cuts in deep, we reach
out to the Keeper of Flames.

The night before, I dreamed of my own death.
His fear had seeped in from the exact prayer timing
he requested. Loss, lack, removal, cancer, cells
spreading, the invisible silver cords
that rope us securely to life.

He will come out at 10:18. The prayers
will hold, solid as stitches. I pray and the words
wing off into a summer day, soft as doves
rushing up from the ground to the sky.

Years ago, we kids mounted the garage roof
to see if we could fly. Now our flags of hope
flutter over him, hope needle-sharp,
pristine as a steel gurney.


Things I Didn't Know About Goats

I didn't know these things, until your funeral:
that you were a light in the Bay Area recovery world
that you played in three bands
that you were a member of this lovely temple
that you were not just my brother
that you made your own farm because of goats
that goats were part of everything you did in recovery
that you called your annual music festival
Goatstock because of this

that you baffled your first employer
by suggesting he buy a herd of goats
to join the grounds of the recovery residence.
I didn't know that hundreds of people
recovered from substance abuse because of you,
and I didn't know how deep art was
within you, that you painted until the end.
Past music, past goats even. You got up
with all those lines hanging off your arms
to go to the easel and make a few strokes,
then stagger back to your chair.

Walking through my neighborhood in spring,
I saw a hillside full of goats.
Goats hired to trim the weeds.
Dotting a vast expanse, they munched,
lay down under a tree. A goat came over
to question me with its wide stare.
Goat always meant a lot to you.
Goats will be good to see again at your house.

October 10. I didn't remember
that today was the first year anniversary.
October 10, date of your death.
October date when I wrote this list
of didn't-knows about goats,
to remind myself that though we were like twins almost,
we lived very different lives. Goats.
I hope where you are, there are many,
ranging the soft, gold, grassy hills.

For David Abramson, July 1, 1952 – October 10, 2016


The Dark of Morning

Dark of morning. Rain ruffles
on the skylight, and I hear them
with a shiver. Invisible faces light the room
and star the air. Recognition unfolds
its fan of warmth, my loved ones
hillside gardening. Picking radishes, peppers,
and zucchinis for lunch. Chard for the soup.
The sun still and bright, as in a Matisse painting.

He's in the studio again. My father
daubs and scribbles in oils, concentrating
in the basement filled with turpentine vapor,
dust and spiders in the crevices
of cement block walls. My brother sneaks away
to check the fishing tackle and plot

his getaway from family on a day boat.
We've agreed four hours
is long enough for any visit with Dad.
He stays the day to satisfy our father,
who always locks the doors
when we're inside the house,
while Lisbeth sets out cheese and crackers.

Their lives now go on, vectoring off
forever. I'm the one who has disappeared,
gone on living in forward time.
Below the cliff where his house sits,
the sea drones. Gulls shriek through
the eternal, bright sky. A tree
with red frond blossoms blooms
incessantly below the sloping garden,
and the red tiled roofs persist in a sea breeze

I must get up and begin again
to live, as they no longer have to.


Previous Piece Next Piece