The Fathers Swarm to Meet the Boats


Every night I dream of fathers, their bodies ferried away
 into the far corner between sleep and waking.
Always there is a dock, the possibility of splinter.

File by file, tall ligaments of ash-light, the fathers
move across the wooden slats, careening into water.

The bed is a blanket of hollow stars
upon which the dead stalk on. Eyes shut.

The boats come out with bright moon oars.
Waiting, the fathers’ mouths hang a mile apart.
My father, in his galaxy suit, chin heavy with whiskers.
He glistens, the skin awash in a silver sheen.
Cheeks, a puckered sinking. We do not touch.

My arms cross over my chest, twin scepters
of an afterlife crowning. When the dead shimmy,
coins drop from every pocket of their skeletal harp.

The land brims with the loudness of copper
slapping against bone-string. And the boats sway.

Beckoned, the fathers descend into the vessels.
Each one, a shade drifting towards an eternity
of unknowns. My own, a shrinking figure
who does not turn, will not wave.

Then the room fills with daylight’s happy shards.
In the slow hours of my waking life, my mouth,
full of metal, proceeds with a viscous chew.

To be alive, touching my living bone,
is a small fee to pay, never quite enough.

When the boats return, empty as a suddenly
upturned palm, a new procession comes.
Fathers of the nightly ritual and spool.

I will never learn. There goes my father again,
with his languid certainty. While I flounder,
he bares his torso. A bright red cancer
wound at his center, aimed at the horizon,
every night like a brand new flag.

Muriel Leung is the author of Bone Confetti, winner of the 2015 Noemi Press Book Award. 

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