For my parents
The priest gathered us under the cross
In our living room, parents seated,
Children kneeling. The book opened,
The words of old prayers flew about
Like freed doves, trained to return home.
We don’t know if my brother opened
The last bottle of wine, or if I protested
Dad’s dying one last time, when I offered
The glass of red instead of the morphine,
Because, for God’s sake, we’ll do this right.
Mom and my sister nursed dad through
The small hours, talking softly about
What will happen to all of us scattered
Too far from home. Dad told us to plant
A row of fruit trees, fix the writers’ shed.
It’s Sunday morning. The sun rises
In the autumn-burned trees, above our church.
The priest alone waits for us with holy oil,
Holy wine, incense, prayers, and songs.
My brother, my sister and I walk through
The door. We light three candles. Our faces
Are reflected in the face of Christ glowing
In the icon lit by stained-glass-windows-sunrise.
The priest calls us to the altar, where we
Drink the tiny spoon of wine. Peace.
I walk alone to the room I filled with flowers
Nearly seventeen years ago, preparing
For my wedding. The mind has a way
Of layering parts of our lives, so that dying
Father, lost marriage, and those August roses
Reflect each other in the memory of icons
I kiss this morning. My father’s cold hands
Are in mine: “Bravo” he says
When I kiss him all over his face, “Bravo”.
“I’ll stay a little longer,” he says, “you fly home”.
Grand River is covered in a fog that glows
In the growing morning. Maples emerge
Candle-like orange through dewy ribbons
Above the fogged-over water. And I take flight
Through the thick cloud, up towards the sun.
Sunday, 16 October 2022