Before moonrise, before the trail, before I begin the climb,
I stop beside a dacha hovering at the shore and watch
shadows cross Tomales Bay as the sun falls.
Mud hens stitch paths on the water as frogs begin their litany
of the dark to come. Evening carries their broken rhythm,
their syncopated song. What can I contribute but the sound
of passing wheels? Nothing to hang in the air.
I turn my back on the colors of sunset—minarets of turquoise,
the pretty pink and gold, the ancient color of still water—
to find the trailhead.
What can I say of my father’s dying? His focus
on things he holds that are not there—parts
to make a train work, his pocket knife, two
lucky crickets, a quarter-sized piece of skin
he’s torn away. He tells me something’s wrong
with all the clocks. His voice definite. Definitive.
No one tells him he is dying.
Tonight I climb into the dark while others climb toward light,
each step disappearing into the next as I wonder where
the moon will rise, what phase it’s in, how much light
might be falling in my garden. I am galvanized. I am iron.
I cannot be polished. I am 61 and do not bend.
Last week I forgot garbage day. Forgot my keys.
Forgot the form of poem I’d become enamored of.
I lost my grammar, my spelling, my balance—tripping
over the earth I’d pried open to tuck in new plants
the way I tuck in my father though he pulls everything
out again—the blanket, the sheets, his underclothes.
He’s trying to untangle what I cannot find for him.