Poetry / June 2012 (Issue 17)

Two Poems

by Joseph O. Legaspi

At the Movies with My Mother

Once again my mother and I have snuck out
to a movie theater, leaving behind my siblings
bruising themselves like ill-carted fruits on
a long journey and my father who remains

to be seen.  In the dark and hush, we sit with
our hands greasy with the oil, sea salt and garlic
of our fried peanuts while the flickering screen
casts larger lives animated by distant puppeteers.

We’re stowaways aboard a ship, I'd fantasize
of our secret excursion (perhaps not so secret).
Or Pinocchio, in search of his kind father, finds
him in the belly of Monstro the Whale.  Rarely

do we watch a film I wanted.  My mother favors
tearjerkers in which women suffer in martyrdom,
fall from high grace, seek revenge, and reap moral
redemption.  In this communal, cavernous space

celluloid glow outlines each solitary audience,
embraced by air-conditioning, drowsing into
forgetfulness.  I see my mother's eyes are fires
that could burn the unearthly core of a whale.

To Whiteness

In the pale universe
of a hospital bed, my father
descends the depths of his dying.
His wife and children surround him
like a moat while the priest dangles his
rosary in prayer.  With subterranean
calm, his doctor and nurses minister
dextrose channels, syringes, tubes;
the catheter lodged in his urethra;
conduits that feed and cleanse and
medicate the circuitry of my father's
cancer-ravaged, bloated, yellow body.
          The scene's stark whiteness,
of soft fluorescent lights,
of the befallen sacredness,
of respect for whatever is coming,
makes it difficult to hate a man.
Even my hard father who's been
plummeting from his drunken, stoic
graces for years.  His cancer has struck
him powerful as the blows he'd laid upon
my mother, humiliating as the kick he once
bestowed my brother, a twelve-year-old
plunging head first into mud.  
          Overhead like a benediction hangs
my father's birthday banner on which I wrote
See the lights—a plea, a command, a wish—
for this bad blood.  But my father
has only lived the life he's ever known:
of selfishness, of absence, of solitude.  
He loves us in his way.  Nearby,
the white roses begin to curl
in their water.  My mother squeezes
his thick hand as if grasping for something:
my father submerged by his disease,
setting forth, doing what he does best.
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