Father’s Day 2019
My daughter and I traveled without our family,
visiting the week before the church burned.
We stayed in a good hotel on the Left Bank
and walked everywhere—Deyrolle, Ladurée —
all the places a father wants his daughter to see.
We spent a morning in the church. Sarah told
the story of Joan of Arc, the French heroine burned
at the stake by the English at the age of nineteen.
We lit a candle beneath her monument.
After we came home Palm Sunday, I told friends
if our Paris trip could have been any sweeter,
I didn’t know how. Then, when the news came,
with images of the conflagration and the spire collapsing,
Sarah found me taking sanctuary in my study.
She had her phone and showed me a picture—
the floor of the nave in ruins with piles
of charred roof beams, ashes, and broken stones.
“But look,” she said, “the altar’s gold cross still stands.”
She quickly took the phone back and asked
if I knew the French word apiculteurs.
She told me it’s the word for beekeepers
and beekeepers maintained colonies of bees
on the roof of Notre Dame! “The honey of
the Holy Spirit?” I asked. She said honeybees
thrive on many roofs in Paris, and showed
the old train station of the Musée d’Orsay,
the gilded dome of the Opéra Garnier,
and even the glass roof of the Grand Palais.
The wrath of the fire could not be stopped
and the flames roared, but the thick black smoke
simply made the bees drunk and sleepy. When
they awoke, it was a new day, and the bees were alive.
After Dinner at Fisherman’s Wharf
Beyond Old Fisherman’s Grotto
the sea lions bark, turning mournfully
in the inky harbor. The lights
have gone out at Carousel Candy
but the gears keep cranking
behind the window, stretching
and pulling pink taffy
slowly into the night. Spent,
a young father cradles his sleeping
infant in a sling. Sun-sick toddlers
drop their sweaty heads like summer’s
last dahlias. Hundreds of moons past,
our boys ran circles on this deck,
planets in orbit. Tonight we hold only
each other as we cross the briny planks.
Above, the clouds are heavy with blessed rain.
A man steps out of an airplane
with a parachute.
Breaks his back
because it is the anniversary
of his wife’s death.
For the rest of his life
and the better part of hers
he is a burden to his second wife.
He is remorseful.
She is angry.
His children forgive her,
for marrying their father.
las vegas is my father’s port pirie
or is it simply what happened on the way to port pirie
and therefore part of the story port pirie
which my father has always remembered, hot as hell, the hottest
he’s been in his whole life was that time in port pirie.
i thought of how we remember such things.
for me, las vegas outside the tropicana
somewhere on the spatula side of that wide white tarmac i imagined
my insides like onions on a grill. i understand now
you can keep death close and that is liveable, or far away
what you can’t do is keep it middle distance. i hugged death
to my bones and then it was time for the funeral. my father
was putting on the three-stripe last tie he owns
watch him struggle with the pulleys
frankenstein poppies, remembering how i’d sneak in his room
to see the ribbons streaming from the violin bows
in his closet raining beaded doors, milk bar
ventriloquist and conjuror trail running
my fingers against them like you did against my diamond wire
leaving late even that one with spots and
like crepe paper, there was a story he said, behind
that one or was it alongside that one like that is not the tooth
after all it was the one next, but i never found out what.
[from Rose Hunter’s book glass, Five Islands Press (Australia), 2017]