Issue #54


Poem for Dad

Poem for Dad

Mayah DeMartino

My father’s body is weary, 

wrought full of steel rods and pins and chain links to hold him together.

He is a skeleton and a scaffolding, 

billowing plastic hung in empty space where a wall might go someday,

pencil marks on plywood as sketches 

for a would-be kitchen and has-been dining room 

and a bedroom where his daughter grew up.

I wonder if he misses when his body was whole.

His shoulders rest as a banner between the beams of his arms 

and I imagine him slowly sinking into the earth in age—

a house being swallowed up by a marsh,

furniture and all, history and all, dishes on the table and 

turn the lights off when you leave, like I always tell you…

I rear back from this deterioration 

eyes watching, unmoving 

dutifully bearing witness to an expression of ache he feels 


bearing witness to his fresh inabilities,

bearing witness to the grit of his still-abilities

or stabilities;

when a body stabilizes itself this is an act of homeostasis,

a forced rebalance to equalize shifts a thousand and one times, 

blood pressure and insulin and energy and redirection of pain. 

Without a rebalance, though, 

this process is just stasis—

stagnant wells of water, blood pooling in joints and muscles stiffening.

My martyrdom campaign is not to die, but to mourn for someone else,

mourning something still in front of me, 

a preemptive processing of loss, 

a second-hand sadness for a body that was not my own.

I found a letter written to me.

It began, when you read this, I won’t be… 

and I dropped it like it was burning.

Letters from the dead while the dead are not is nearly sacrilegious.

He might not even miss himself as he was,

I watch him lying down with his eyes upraised towards the ceiling 

and wonder if prays 

and wonder what he prays for if he does, 

an end? a reprieve? a twenty-year old self 

kneeling next to a greyhound in a photo outside his parent’s home?


I wonder if he mourns himself

I wish for excess and redundancy and needless moreness,

to wish for him not as he is, at his expense,

is to say to a cracked smiling face 

I wish you were happy. 

Forgive my unpracticed hands and wishes and absolute misunderstandings 

and cravings to place my feet so directly in your shoes 

that I can feel every flared nerve ending 

and spike of something that isn’t comfort. 

When do you feel rest

Does your body ever allow you stasis as a reward

 instead of a symptom of a mechanical malfunction?


I do not believe in god but I pray for you. 

Ancestral Land, 2,800 miles from Home

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