Feb 162013

by John Goodhue


From the father’s ribs,

they wring water

and call back his son

to identify the bloated pieces of heart

still clinging within, like strange necklaces,

from bits of peat moss and cattail.


The sleuths know better,

but they give the child

the left eye, snip it

from the wilting socket

and dry it in an oil-rag.

They each put a finger to their lips

and tell him, when the time is right

to pass it down

in one form or another

to his offspring.


So the boy frames it,

all of it – the retina, the pupil,

the dull, lifeless rest,

and lays it carefully,

like a suicide note

on the mantel in his living room.


And when he is old,

half-blind with the years,

the child, no longer a child

masticates the eye

swallows it

and sees in finality,

how it must be done –


He returns to the marsh,

cranes still chewing his father’s wrists 

that hang like sickles

in the splintered mangroves.

He lays beneath them with his scored, naked body.

And, hugging the crumbling bank 

lets the swamp-water rise with the moon,

ebb into his mouth, into his throat

down past the stomach

past the memento itself,

until his body is bloated

and his ribs, just like his fathers

squeezed dry, the water within

falling in a harmony

of drip, drip, drip,

the same police arriving
calmly over the rhythm

and with them, his only son.