Apology for the Death of Your Father

Amrita Khalid

2005 Third Prize

I
You were the kind of
Girl that detached herself
Early. You were born unlinked,
Free, nature-tossed. He named
You in Sanskrit, named you after
Flowers.

They told me your father died
On a soft, blue Tuesday
Morning. The night was warm
Before, they said he died in his
Sleep, passing slowly, exhaling.

II
On coming to see you, I
Felt as if I could never
Really see you. On parting,
I felt like I could never part
Sooner.

If I could tell you how
Sorry I was, I would, if I knew
It would help, I would.

III
The mourning in my voice
Lilts, it forms like a
Wine-glass, transparent
And hollow.

You look up, your
Eyes, hot, blue, and mellow.
With your eyes, you break it.

IV
The sick politeness of death,
You’re not the one for it.

I remember when we were too
Young to know any better,
Our families went swimming
At the lake, and we went so far
We got lost in depths of the water,
Everything was razor-wet and blue,
And you got lost so hard all you
Could do was drink it.

I held onto a rock and watched them
Save you, your body slick and robotic,
Your chest still. I thought you were killed.
Face cut from the rocks,
Lightly bleeding that ugly, alien liquid.
Ask me to recall, and
I’ll tell you, how sick that was, how
Polite that was.

V
I unearth you. Your arms
Are starved like tree branches.

You’re too limp to move, so I
Look at you, pull you apart, quietly,
Carefully. How cold you are, how
Exhausted and tiny and cold.

I look at you.
Look at
What a mess
Life has made of you.

Days will pass, years, even,
When you’re walking over stones
To avoid him, or to confront him.
People will hush out his name, you’ll
Ache to forget him, you’ll cross him
Out savagely, and then reach out,
Arms flailing, screaming out in
Agony, the instinctual bond
Between daughter and father,
Long buried, and you, the half-
Orphan, the incomplete growing
Animal, your father’s face blurring.

You’ll fall asleep.

One day, you’ll wake and you’ll
Realize that you’re without him,
You’ll know that you’ll be fine.

Because that’s all we can ask, in the end.

To be fine.

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