85–The sting is part of it now.
I see the heavy grey New York concrete. The sidewalks as chalky and fat as dinosaur bones. I see the movie theater facade, the box office. And I feel the heaviness of betrayal.
Since I started publishing poems here in May (with issue 76 “A last Thanksgiving at home”), I’ve been working my way through a pile of pieces written during the 17 months my father was sick – with the goal of releasing them as a book at the end of the month (more next week on how and where to order yourself a copy).
Many of these poems, as I’ve stated, were written at my father’s literal bedside, as the tumor in his head fed off his blood vessels, swelled in size, and made the normal functions of his brain impossible.
In a way, it was a slow process. For months, he was essentially himself. Moving the same, speaking the same, bringing his brand of open-hearted skepticism to everything going on in the world – his internal world, our family world, and the wider world (which mattered less and less).
Then, toward the end, it went very fast. In a matter of weeks, he went from being the robust, heavy-set, hairy man I spent my whole life looking toward and relying on, to being a limping man, then a speechless man, then an almost child-like man, and finally, nearly comatose, he died.
Revisiting and revising the poems written during that time has been a process of peeling back my own grief and realizing how much there is still left to feel. How much I may just feel forever. Until, I guess, I am the dying man myself.
My earliest memory is of my father’s absence.
We were in New York and he wasn’t there.
In reality, he’d gone ahead to California – to start a new job, and, presumably, to set up a home and a way of life for his young family.
But to my kid brain (I was not yet three), all I knew was that he was gone.
And, one morning, when my mother said we were going to see a movie (in my memory it was E.T.) and that my father was going to see it as well… I was convinced that he’d be waiting for us at the theater.
I see the heavy grey New York concrete. The sidewalks as chalky and fat as dinosaur bones. I see the movie theater facade, the box office, the posters advertising new films. And I feel the heaviness of betrayal: the sharp sting when I realize that my father is not there.
We were reunited weeks later. But I’m essentially at that movie theater now. Only now I understand what’s going on and I can conceptualize the loss – and my own safety despite his absence.
But the sting remains. The sting is part of it now.
Today’s poem is about a different rupture, one he experienced and I seem to carry. It’s also not really a poem. But you can take your categories and shove ‘em, is what I say. (Unclear who I am talking to here…).
I don’t know if it relates to the above, framed lightly by my own reflections, or if it stands on its own. But that’s the beauty of this medium. It can be as messy as real life.
Either way, I hope you enjoy it. If you do, hit reply and tell me. I love hearing back.
Sharing these poems, and sharing the stories, reflections, essays, and photos in the 75 issues before this cycle, has been a great honor, and a deeply restorative practice for me – as a son, as a writer, as an artist, and as a man trying to live the most open, full, and generous existence he can in a complicated world.
I don’t know what the future of The Joy Menu holds, but I know there is a bright and busy future for me scribbling, editing, and sharing what I write. I hope you’ll follow along – be it here, or in the next place.
I’ll be back next week with more information on all of it. Especially the poetry collection, which I very much hope you buy (many copies of!).
But for now, thank you for reading, following, supporting. Without you, these would just be journals. Thank you for making them art.