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34 the minnesota review Chris Bursk Chief Never Wearying 1 Just one more spoonful? Just one? That song that opens the mouth, that old lie, more peaches or stewed carrots already out of the jar. To resist anything as shrewdly shaped as a spoon, that slide of silver over the tongue, one needs principles, teeth. At first it was a contest between my mother and me to prove who could get Dad to eat. See what they did for me? On his charts I'd cheat in a bite of egg salad, a sip of nectar so when I went to read the numbers again they might tell me father wasn't as thin as he looked, though even his buttocks were nothing but wrinkles, that old bank account of fat spent by now. Each day he refuses to eat, grows wilier, holds his food in his cheeks' pouches. When my mother and I leave, he tells the nurses it's okay, now they can bring him the scotch, little nips of it. Do it for me, I sing. Just one more bite for me. This week my father has a new gesture. He waves me away as if I were just a well-meaning stranger who's run to help, maybe a guest with bad manners as if what I was asking of him was as preposterous as insisting he dance with me. Bursk 35 No, he shakes his head quickly, twice. No Not right now. It's good ofyou to offer, but now. It's quite out of the question. 2 As a teenager it was a point of pride for me not to borrow from my father knowing he'd give me anything I asked for. An investment, he'd say if I relented. Don't think of it as a loan but as an investment. Giving me things embarrassed us both. And now I have my father's old debts and more coming, all last year's bills left unpaid as if at eighty-one he'd grown tired of being held accountable, thousands spent on lottery tickets, a file cabinet full of them. With so much pulling me from my right, it seems, to live in the present how could I have indulged myself now in my own home? I even paid the carpenters extra so they'd put the skylight in before I changed my mind. And here I am, as close to the sky as I can get at this slit in the roof that makes the attic a room now mine and the trees. It's as if I'd slept in their branches as if we shared the sun now, as if it were bread we broke together, a great feast laid before us. Every breath of air has to be helped into my father. Right now miles from me he is gripping the edge of his seat, he is wondering who is coming for him, he's trying to turn from his pain. 36 the minnesota review How can I afford this extravagant light? 3 Do my arms now, Do my legs, my father, that once silent, reserved man cooing, moaning for me not to stop. I rub my Dad's shoulders, scratch his dry scalp, run my hands through the fine, lofting strands of white hair not as if this might heal him not as if it will make the pain any less but that it might be put beside his suffering, the muscles loosening, a small pleasure taking hold of his body 4 When my father asks what happened as he does, every day, what should I say to him: that he was to blame, he'd been drinking, he'd rolled through a stopsign, there were witnesses? Baby, my Dad says, this afternoon, pointing to his bed, the rubber sheets there. Does anyone deserve to get what he deserves? Today I help my father with the urinal I'll do the lifting. You do the pissing, I say It's taken me a couple of weeks to get good at this. The first time I wasn't ready; too afraid to touch I let the plastic container...


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