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  • Lutu
  • Rob Arnold (bio)

As the light dims, as the breath wanes, remember this.

Remember these windows, portals to the clawing trees, sounds of the other-world filtering through.

Remember this bed, which held its children in their fears all night, in the precarity of dreams or imagination

Or the reality just outside the door, smelling of cheap beer and gasoline, shadow-dart in the crack of hallway light.

This widening crack as it fissured through their bodies—how frail the body of a toddler—

Remember the fissures which chewed at the edges of the world, swallowing trees outside, the gnawed panes of glass

And time itself, which expanded into decades before it too was eaten

Surely and steadily until even your face disappeared, even your crabbed hands clutching the wheelchair

Which I photographed without your permission, because your ability to give permission—

Because your ability to see and to recognize, to speak or to comprehend

To search back through the vault of recollection and conjure that room that we shared, as I have just now

That room that we shared where you unleashed your confusions onto my body— [End Page 26]

To remember, to feel, and to face me—

________

But what are fissures but openings, gaps in one's being?

What are gaps but what's known divided, and what is the unknown but a specter of possibility?

Brother, what was that specter in the room with us?

Whose dark energy possessed your body,

Whose face did I fear at night, who I imagine even now lurking in the crawlspace, itself a fissure.

Is the spirit a byproduct of life, or is life an accretion of the spirit?

Whose spirit plunged us into that unlit passageway,

That spirit realm where no questions could be answered.

I sat with you in the hospital room which harbored no wisdom.

But I could feel the spirit leaking out of you, one labored, urgent breath at a time.

Your lungs, filled with fluid. Your skin which felt loose, like a costume to be discarded.

And is the body a chrysalis? Are we larvae of some beautiful beings of love and weightless light?

No, your body had weight. I felt it so many times when we were children, mine pinned down by yours, yours Ritalin- and sugar-strong.

This was years before your teeth would rot one by one out of your mouth, before the finger pricks and insulin shots in the fat of your waistline.

You ate the icing straight from the can. You spooned the sweet slurry from the bottom of the cereal bowl.

And so, the knee through the drywall. [End Page 27]

And so, the broken hairbrush, bristle-patterned blood droplets seeping from the leg.

All that we fled as we threw our bodies at one another:

The upturned chair, the burning cloth,

The sting of dirt clods, the little kiss of bruise they left on our skin.

Fast forward, the skin grows to encircle the body, riven and rent, a tender tether to the world.

Fast forward and your skin freckles and bloats, grows delicate and thin around the face, yet somehow tightens over the hands.

Is that why you would die with your fists clenched?

With bruising on the bicep both inexplicable and inevitable?

________

And where is the father in all of this?

Father: this is the son.

This is the son with your face who bears your name, who bears your name and wears your face.

Can you see his slack jaw? Can you see his dentures in the Ziploc bag, the flutter in his throat when fluid gurgles through his chest?

Father, did you think you could escape this, seeing your likeness in the blue print gown and orange socks?

Seeing your doppelganger, watching him struggle to breathe in this hospital ward?

This son of yours who bears your name, your face.

Your features transposed, the arch of eye sockets, that hollowing at the temple which must be the shape of your skull as well.

Another piece of you borrowed only to die alone in this bed. [End Page 28]

This son with your face who bears the burden of your name.

The rasp...

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