Lying in my old childhood bed, alone, spring orchard
south through the window, kitchen phone clattering, some
low words, a muted cry, and I knew my father had died.
Someone’s job, of course, probably a practiced speech,
and I lay there a while, letting ripples settle into quiet,
old enough to know how we’d much rather go, alone,
when the prayerful finally let us be, in early morning,
before roosters, maybe a few dark-haunted crows
ratcheting sun into the sky, though it was hawks
I thought of, my father in that flimsy gown, held
so he could piss into a cup, his morphine-glazed eyes
taking but one sharp final glance, past us to the river.
And he saw something, I knew, something there
in the elms or clouds, maybe wind riffling the water
with a soft rasp like his death-gnawed lungs, and he
nodded and laid down, counting the beads of triumph
and failure, just waiting for us to go home at last,
making our noisy way toward our own little sleeps.
George Perreault is from Reno, Nevada, and his most recent collection, Bodark County, features poems in the voices of characters living on the Llano Estacado. He has received a fellowship from the Nevada Arts Council and an award from the Washington Poets Association, was a finalist for the Backwaters Prize and the Fischer Prize, and has served as a visiting writer in New Mexico, Montana, and Utah. His poems have been nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize and selected for fourteen anthologies and dozens of magazines.