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  • Prodigal
  • David Groff (bio)

When we moved our father outof his stuffed and stuffy houseto the dark brightness of laand the attention of my brother

his place lay furnished but vacant,a memory, a hope, and a lie.Someday, he said, he'd be spryenough to climb on the train

in downtown la and spanthe curve of the country and comeback to his wrinkled Cape Codand its somnolent eyebrow dormers.

"It's an Addison Groff museum!"I told him when he venturedand he ventured often, to askus keepers of his flame,

about the one home he'd owned.As with the churches he'd tended,

he wanted it to miss himand be staggered by its grief

but yet to prosper becausehe was the man who made it [End Page 149]

a place that could not livewithout his ministrations.

The house, no childhood home,held grief like a grudge,stuck in the soybean fields,all evenings descending blue,

the fluorescence of Bob Evansa dinner's respite. My mothergrew bored to death in that box,her editing gigs and her sons

arriving less than they left.Early one Valentine's Dayshe grabbed once at her chestand died in the dining room.

You see why I hated revisits,you see why I shunnedthe four-hour schlep from the cityto this landing strip of a state,

you understand why it was Iwho never opened the houseto the scouring outside breezes,never blasted the heat to

burn out all of its wet,never lingered to noticethe green creep up the wallsand never admitted the smell

that gave the place the sweetorganic aroma of death.It was as if my father's househad mortgaged me to the teeth [End Page 150]

and I, absent heir of the lord,drunk with my own regret,let the Vandals havethe run of my father's fief.

My father's spine-split books,the cameras' cracked accordions,the sheepskin of diplomas,the piano's rusty intestines,

the paintings he painted so badly,the clothes his mother sewed,the suits his father preached in,stereopticon slides of France,

snapshots bleeding to gluethe Child's Garden of VersesI'd read in my sickly bed,the vestments my father kept,

the journals I stained as a teen,the yearbooks in which my mothergrinned like a careless girl,every porous thing—

I handed it over to mold,to a green that parodied spring,to a prison of decomposure,to a stink you can't scrape clean.

All was pulled out and tossed,the clocks and dishes sold.My brother, a hero, laboredwith me to scrape out the ship.

In my father's la flatmold is not a problem. [End Page 151]

Most all he once had heldfor the time that Jesus would call

him and his trucks of stuffis lost to the curse of must.He will bear no gifts for his maker.I go naked before the Lord. [End Page 152]

David Groff

David Groff's book Clay was chosen by Michael Waters for the Louise Bogan Award. His collection Theory of Devolution was selected by Mark Doty for the National Poetry Series. He has co-edited two anthologies, Who's Yer Daddy?: Gay Writers Celebrate Their Mentors and Forerunners and Persistent Voices: Poetry by Writers Lost to AIDS. An independent book editor, he teaches poetry and nonfiction in the MFA program at the City College of New York.



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pp. 149-152
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