The day I looked into you
and saw that old blue nothing
looking back so distant.
So far away.
As though everything you once knew
was a riddle without an answer
and in the jumble of your mind
the people once close are now
lost pieces of a difficult puzzle
hard to reassemble into familiar faces.
In the cluttered attic you have become,
do memories rush by on little feet
or are they propelled by chubby cherub’s wings
leaving scattered feathers across your day
for you to pick up, examine and question
as though they were pieces of your own skin?
When night drops its shadows
are you back there in the old barn
with the doves you tamed cooing in the rafters,
the one dry cow,
the horse that knew your name as well as its own,
and your mama calling you in for supper
the hay smell lingering until bedtime?
Does that comfort inhabit you now,
these thousand years on
bringing you to pause and smile,
find reassurance that somehow this all
will be all enough?
When you close your eyes
I see only a skull. A body of bones.
No longer the smiler who once
placed a small pumpkin on his head,
grinned into the camera
and became a permanent black and white moment.
Oh father, please forgive my tears.
They are for the things I have put you through,
because a son will always be a son
and needs to find his own way.
Rest your head on me.
Let this hand I hold, its bones like a bird’s,
lead you back to that weathered barn
its doors blown open,
the ducks and chickens scattered,
the summer dandelions thick in the mare’s meadow,
and the porch swing patiently waiting.
Rest old workman. Toiler of life’s hard fields.
Go to those places again, evening is on.
Your mother in the farmhouse kitchen
is singing you home.
Robert Kokan has had poems published in The Windy Hill Review, Avocet, Yellow Mama, and Jerry Jazz Musician. He is a past student of AllWriters’ Workplace & Workshop and The Poetry People, working with the late Phil Zwiefel at UW-Waukesha.