Caleb A.P. Parker
Elegy in a Yellow Kitchen
I watched my mother drain my father’s—
drained, I watched, my latex gloves the same blue as my
father’s lung out of a tube stuck right into his
running shoes, and soon I would be sprinting by
his side, the fluid neither blood nor
bayou. By and by, we shall meet on that beautiful
water, and the exit site must remain completely
beautiful, sure, and must remain completely
sterile. My fingers wide, blue, helpless,
beautiful, the wilting man, his wife, his son.
I stood, she knelt, he sat, in mid-December.
A resurrection, was his claim. He’d clawed
at us, his sons, when extubated. We’d leaned
his icon of the Christ right up against the Plexiglass,
Christ’s face split down the middle, half-kind,
half-pissed: the sight that greeted him
when he was extubated, glad, so glad to be alive.
Burned in late December. Crematories re-combust
a body’s smoke into gas, but they cannot prevent
the gas from casting shadows on the parking lot.
Once, he dreamed of his Babichka in a yellow dress,
in a yellow kitchen, yellow in its yellow light,
and yes she was, it really was, was really her, her
whole self, he said. That’s when I saw the boy beneath
the crow’s feet.
I cupped cafeteria tea on those last hellos to / Dad was placid all smiles in / his
lungs were freshly drained / a surgeon would soon tug at his heart sac with a
rongeur French for rodent / cut pierce incise it with a / heart was drowning /
intubated extubated / he was so glad to be / a helicopter landed outside
his window / we brought the nurses things of coffee / sat in vigil took shifts
rang the Bishop / Houston’s fog that morning made the front page / collapsed
when I arrived / his fresh corpse wreathed in a bluegrass dirge / I’d chanted
psalms for my last goodbye hoped morphine made some room for them / said
I’d be okay lied maybe hard to know we’ll see / recited lines about a light
perpetual / he’d need his hiking boots his / cassock for the burning / held them
high until I couldn’t hold them high the day the undertaker came to take them
Mornings, with poems or coffee or silence to hold at his lips, he’d
sit in the darkness. And we’d sleep. And in time, he would come
peeking his wheat harvest face into bedrooms to sluice us with soft light.
(Orange in the sky was a clear sign that his time was now ours.)
Those were the happiest days of his life, he would say to the nurses,
oatmeal and lunches and lost shoes in the rush before school.
Sometimes, when fastening helmets to us, he’d unwittingly pinch skin,
giving us some of the small wounds we forgive him for now.
Caleb A.P. Parker is a writer and musician from the industrialized Texas Gulf Coast, where he grew up as the youngest son of two Episcopal priests. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Colorado Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Quarterly West, and elsewhere. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin.