On this All Souls Day, I offer a poem about one kind of afterlife (there are many) from Gods of Water and Air:
Back from the Afterlife
I meet my father for breakfast
in some life after Alzheimer’s. He smiles:
still my daughter? The first sick joke
from the afterlife begins on the phone.
I say, 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.
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?
The phone catches his frown, then smile
in its black brick, photo grim as a toe tag.
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. I’m mulching him
over, planting him in memory,
watering him with thin answers,
sure that he’ll spring up in life after
this, my old deep-rooted weed.