by Mary Azrael
“Angels, we hear, sometimes don’t know the living from the dead.”
— from Rilke’s first Duino Elegy
This time, in a country far from ours
I see my father on a bicycle, casually
pedaling across a flat bridge, wearing a common cap
and rough jacket – not remarkable, except that
these are the clothes of a living man
and he must be dead, having gone down years ago
into the redbrown cut in a hillside,
dressed in his best suit and tie and good socks
and no shoes. This can’t be, it mustn’t be
the same man – the father of all my ages, even these
he’s missing – there on the bridge over
a broad canal near one of the Dutch towns
in a landscape of wild skies that change with every breath;
a landscape of pastures built up by the stolid citizens
to outlast the floods, perhaps; where sailboats ride
stately or playful, white flashes of freedom, of joy,
beside the heavy-hearted cows grazing their lowlands
like geese who can’t fly.
He belongs to them, this man, now finished
crossing the bridge, now pedaling away, never having seen me,
carrying a loaf of bread home to dinner where his wife
and two children have laid out the plates and napkins
and forks and knives and spoons, assuming
he will be there with them any minute.
Copyright © 2012, Mary Azrael.
Mary Azrael has led poetry writing workshops in schools and colleges from the Eastern Shore to western Maryland, and now teaches in the Odyssey program at Johns Hopkins University. She’s the author of three books of poems and an opera libretto, Lost Childhood, based on the life of a Jewish boy who survived the Holocaust. She co-edits Passager journal, now in its 22nd year, and Passager Books, a press dedicated to older writers.
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