The grief, when I finally contacted it decades later, was black, tarry, hot, like the yarrow-edged side roads we walked barefoot in the summer. Sometimes we’d come upon a toad flattened by a car tire, pressed into the softened pitch, its arms
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Man in Flight
My father, lungs a-warble, spreads his arms on the nursing
swoops low over rough, unfamiliar terrain. The hospice nurse
ticks off procedures.
My mother signs papers with her large, lush loops, so ravishing,
more ravishing than the chicken-scratch scrawl of my father’s
clubbed now, a long-lost claw—phylogenesis recapitulated, and
Overhead, the geese tootle toward the marsh.
They’re rolling the old folks into the commons, lining them up
before the TV.
I look out the window. The geese have landed,
foraging slowly on the manicured lawn, unruffled, for now,
by organochlorides and organophosphates and their
in the rat-a-tat, rat-a-tat blood of a bird. And 2 and 4 and 2 and
my father’s bent language its own looping code, laying an egg
like a parrot,
and every so often an embarrassed embarrassed and every so
often a dammit.
“Our relationship wasn’t exactly warm and fuzzy,” my mother
behind drugstore specs. They make her look owlish.
She isn’t owlish; she’s ravishing, more ravishing than ever she
back in the days when the couch was her tether and pills were
and my father flew at her with razor blades lashed to his feet.
The hospice nurse ticks off further procedures.
The geese crop the grass; their idyll won’t last. The city, half-
is gunning for them, hatching a brood of lethal procedures
to rid itself of the soft, light bodies so hazardous to man in
Betsy Andrews is the author of The Bottom (42 Miles Press, 2014) and New Jersey (University of Wisconsin Press, 2007). She is the editor-at-large of Organic Life magazine and lives in Brooklyn, New York.