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Smiling Back from the Afterlife, and: Listening to the Paint

From: Prairie Schooner
Volume 86, Number 3, Fall 2012
pp. 122-124 | 10.1353/psg.2012.0108

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Smiling Back from the Afterlife

I meet my father for breakfast
in some life after
Alzheimer’s. He smiles: Are you still
my daughter? The first sick joke
from the afterlife begins
on the phone. I regret that I am. His skull

knobbed yellow and blue, bruised
from an unremembered mishap. I imagine his face
the color of a car’s undercarriage, the sun
from his ocean view window
catching the green mica flecks in his eyes.
His thoughts float on the surface, torn
out of context. He’s dying, he says:
ninety-two and a ragpile wreck.

He throws down the paper.
Still all assholes! he proclaims and asks
the word for forgetfulness. I remind him
it’s crs syndrome: Can’t Remember Shit.
His favorite joke lives on
in my memory. Everything between us lives
in me, so when I leave him

in his black leather chair, I feel
his confusion pelting my back.
Do I know you? Your name is Rachel, right?
Where’s that woman? She’s been gone for days.
The phone catches his frown, then smile
in its black brick, photo grim as a toe tag.
Still your daughter, I say from the airport.

Now I’m on a plane and as far
as he’s concerned, I might as well be
in the afterlife. But I’m just mulching him
over, planting him in memory,
watering the past with answers thin
as spring rain, sure that he’ll spring up
in some life after this minute,
irrepressible, deep-rooted as a weed.

Listening to the Paint

In the exhibit I recognized my father’s feathered dashes,
the brush strokes I watched him apply
to seascapes and portraits, forearm scrubbing
tint on canvas, bristles flicking the length
of long, silent Saturday afternoons. How the room
filled with his concentrated mind. How many times
Monet must have moved his brush. You can see it
in the flurry of colored welts,
one paint lump embedded with a single hair.
How many times he loaded the brush,
swiped on those parallel lines. Strokes now fossilized
in the exhibition room’s angled-down lights.

I have an idea how long that dry rhythm held
because as I waited for my father to speak
I counted the falling dust motes.
The silence art must bear.
I shifted from foot to foot. Now I shift
memory’s tenses and wish my keys swashed
soft as brushes, clinked like his brushes
stirring turpentine in a jar to lisp
on the next vista. Today my father stands silent
before his easel, as if listening to the paint.
He can’t remember how to mix the colors.
His mind’s layers have been rubbed off
with the palette knife of a painter who keeps changing
the composition. I no longer begrudge that hoarded time,
or the gruffness when he pushed me out of his studio.
Now his time dries out, darkening on the canvas.

Rachel Dacus  

Rachel Dacus’s three collections of poetry are Earth Lessons, Femme au chapeau, and Another Circle of Delight. Her fourth collection, Gods of Water and Air (Kitsune Books), is forthcoming. Her poems, stories, essays, reviews, and interviews have appeared in Atlanta Review, Boulevard, Many Mountains Moving, Rattapallax, and other journals. She lives in Walnut Creek, California, and works as a grant writer and fundraising consultant.

Copyright © 2012 University of Nebraska Press
Project MUSE® - View Citation
Rachel Dacus. "Smiling Back from the Afterlife, and: Listening to the Paint." Prairie Schooner 86.3 (2012): 122-124. Project MUSE. Web. 27 Jan. 2013. <http://muse.jhu.edu/>.
Dacus, R.(2012). Smiling Back from the Afterlife, and: Listening to the Paint. Prairie Schooner 86(3), 122-124. University of Nebraska Press. Retrieved January 27, 2013, from Project MUSE database.
Rachel Dacus. "Smiling Back from the Afterlife, and: Listening to the Paint." Prairie Schooner 86, no. 3 (2012): 122-124. http://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed January 27, 2013).
T1 - Smiling Back from the Afterlife, and: Listening to the Paint
A1 - Rachel Dacus
JF - Prairie Schooner
VL - 86
IS - 3
SP - 122
EP - 124
PY - 2012
PB - University of Nebraska Press
SN - 1542-426X
UR - http://muse...

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