The fiddle fig in my apartment has grown quite large, top
leaves scraping the ceiling. One leaf in the middle
of the central stalk is wide enough to sit upon, say, if one
were caught in a river & needed a raft, say the river
was astonishment, time, rushing through the stages
of impermanence. My plant is a stranger to you, papa,
you never got to meet her: my dragon, my rabbi.
I can only grieve you this way—by noticing what you will
never notice: the plant, my broadening bald spot,
the way, when it rains, the fog becomes a tallis draped over
the shoulders of the hill outside my window. How alike
we are—a pair of hunched worshippers worshipping
bad weather, turning green in the absence of sun. You
will never see the way I sway to Kreisler in the car,
his violin stitching me to history, to the mystical
bewilderment that is my birthright, my destination. You
will never notice how Kayla has begun to glow, luminous
with burgeoning purpose, unburdened by the circle she
pledged herself to. You’ll never know the world without
you, how it keeps going—old women buying bread, dogs
eating butterflies, children taking a sputtering country
lovingly into their hands. I should have held you more.
I should have driven you to physical therapy, to the market,
to your mother’s. I should have flown you to Austin for bbq,
New York for belly lox, Big Sur for purple sand. I should have
told you to shave the goatee. I should have shaved it. I should
have cooked you matzo brei, chicken soup, brisket. I should
have brought you tea. I should have read to you. I should
have clutched your hands & told you & told you & told you.
There was a better son in me & you never got to meet him.
Oh pops, what brutal coil will these strange years make?
Which end of me will be the end of me? I remember how
your mustache curled into a smile, a salt & pepper wave,
the frozen bananas, the delicatessen. I guess I should prune
the fig, but I don’t want to. Better, I should let it grow wild.
Better yet, let it swallow me whole. God help me,
I did what I did.
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