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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, August 17, 2018.
About this Poem 

“How does one mourn? How does one mourn a difficult, unapproachable, loveless father? Death is a vaster canyon. Does one simply follow the observances of the rituals: the wake, the funereal flowers, the staging of the open casket? Is the son hateful, vengeful, or simply timorous or defiant or, finally, untethered?”
—Joseph O. Legaspi

Kissing My Father

Three days into his wake my father has not risen.

He remains encased in pine, hollowed-
out, his body unsealed, organs 
harvested, then zippered 
shut like a purse. 

How strange to see one’s face inside 
a coffin. The son at my most peaceful. 
The father at his most peaceful.  
Not even the loud chorus 
of wailing family members 
can rid us of our sleep.  

My mother sits front center.  
Regal in black, her eyes sharpened 
as Cleopatra’s. Her children, grown 
and groaning, quietly moan beside a white 
copse of trumpeting flowers.  

The church is forested 
with immigrants, spent after their long journey 
to another country 
to die. 

Before the casket 
is to be closed, we all rise 
to bid our final farewells.

My mother lowers herself, 
kisses the trinity of the forehead 
and cheeks, then motions her obedient 
children to follow. One by one my 
siblings hover, perch, and peck. 

I stand over my father 
as I had done on occasions 
of safe approach: in his sleep, or splayed 
like a crushed toad on the floor, drunk.

I study him, planetary, 
distant presence both bodily 
and otherworldly, a deceptive 
kind of knowledge.
His beauty has waned 
but not faded, face surface 
of a moon, not ours, I turn pale,
shivering, I place my hand 
on his, amphibious.  

While my mother places her hand warm on the cradle
of my back, where I bend to fit into my body.

Her burning eyes speak, Do it for me, they
urge, Kiss your father goodbye.  

I refuse.

Copyright © 2018 by Joseph O. Legaspi. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 17, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Joseph O. Legaspi. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 17, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Joseph O. Legaspi

Joseph O. Legaspi

Joseph O. Legaspi is the author of Threshold (CavanKerry Press, 2017) and Imago (CavanKerry Press, 2007), winner of a Global Filipino Literary Award.

by this poet

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             "Tell me whom you love, and I’ll tell you who you are." – Creole Proverb


The man whose throat blossoms with spicy chocolates
Tempers my ways of flurrying
Is my inner recesses surfacing
Paints the bedroom blue because he wants to carry me to the skies
Pear eater in

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Amphibians live in both.

Immigrants leave their land,
hardening in the sea.

Out of water.

In Greek, amphibian means
“on both sides of life.”

Terra and aqua.  Shoreline.
In fresh water:

amphibians lay
shell-less eggs;
immigrants give

poem

The moment my mother tells me she’d fallen out of love
with my father, the Santa Ana winds still
for a wingbeat second and the lemon trees
shudder in the backyard, their fruits falling
in a singular hushed thud. 
It is a quiet shaking. I sit across
from her at the kitchen table, a man