“Today my father didn’t want to be anything but not” by Lauren Camp

By Joe Lugara

to need to be without yesterday and it’s only a summer
of time before what erases is afternoons
and evenings and his patience is constantly
erasing, but that day we rode
his kisses all the way to the hallway carpet
from the elevator, all of its distances 
that will remain on my lips and my sister’s 
good smile—slight—which kept on becoming
a face. We had just returned from our trip backward 
past blue buildings and vents. We stood in standing 
water because it was at the bottom 
of our view and we needed to be 
burled to a man who keeps a hat 
in a pouch and three bandages to shell the top 
of his head. We listened to his memory haggle 
its dusky noises, the hexagonal wasting taking no time 
and forever. Each thought was an aroma 
we tasted and we said with our breath 
come in, take us up. That day 
we went to a medical office
and sat as the fluorescence winnowed 
to green while the doctor chased the dredge
on his head. I stood as they cauterized. 
My father was stiff from the scrape 
of all truth, and it pained to see 
the material of his face, wincing. To stir up
such trembling. Minutes went on, recently empty,
and more filled with futures. We took him 
back to his steady bedtime, to the red walker 
folding into his selected elder woman. His brain is seasoned 
to tenderness. He gave us those kisses and we turned
our shoulders deep into him, realized we made it 
this far. We knew soon we’d be to the horse 
of his mind and what it chooses to nestle, to eat—
his hierarchies of losses and outbursts, the far objects 
and systems of repetition, days crying
with daylight, where everyone lowers their heads.

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Lauren Camp is the author of five books, most recently Took House (Tupelo Press). Honors include the Dorset Prize and finalist citations for the Arab American Book Award, Housatonic Book Award, North American Book Award, National Indie Excellence Award, and New Mexico-Arizona Book Award. Her poems have appeared in New England Review, WitnessPoet Lore, and Beloit Poetry Journal, and her work has been translated into Mandarin, Turkish, Spanish, Serbian and Arabic.