Because the gantries in his mind fell short,
my father no longer trusted the leaves
and I questioned every misplaced word.
We became a quandary of sonnets—two ends unable to meet.
Off the grid, his thoughts held no allegiance to himself.
No orchestra of commands awaited—his conductor of reason
gone south. In the rigmarole of 2:00am he picked up the phone
he thought had rung; no receiver to receive, only the dull dial tone
to confuse. Seven-hundred miles away I continued…on his behalf
to fire warning shots over every passing head. But he was keening his
laments and I was keening mine—so loosely joined were we—
we wavered together in a kind of monastic madness. Both of us off
-synch downbeats, though pitch perfect in our resonance.
Our double bass vibrated off every papered wall.
Phone Fugue #1
I’m having a hard time
being tragic these days,
what that with that noonday moon
chalked against an opaque sky;
of their former selves.
Like my 80-year-old father in the midst
of another sundowner fog,
relating ghostly hallucinations
of his long-dead mother—she sat on the couch
and shredded the pillows.
Then she walked into the bedroom
and locked the door.
“It was only a dream Dad,” No! I’m tellin’ you, she was here!
Oh, third–eye, oh prairie mother, deliver me
from confabulations and mindless subterfuge,
prolonged processions and funeral marches. Let me go on
anointing my days with the easy ambiguity
I cultivate so well; inscrutable vagueness
even to myself. I like it that way.
Place me not in the doldrums of daughterhood, officious
secretary, the everyday savior a phone call away.
Long Distance Dirge
I dream I discovered a forgotten phone message
from my father. His voice is the same as in his final days:
vague, sluggish, appeasing…a vestige
of Jersey sarcasm around the edges.
He is impersonating an editor rejecting my work (again).
A bad joke he admits. He even mentions the title
of the manuscript—something about children
and death. I listen and think he must be calling me
from wherever he is now. Is that possible?
Do they have phones there? It does seem correct
that he could reach me, regardless of the rules
of mortality, the ether of time and a distance that thin.
Tina Schumann is the author of two poetry collections, Praising the Paradox (Red Hen Press,2019) and As If (Parlor City Press, 2010), which was awarded the Stephen Dunn Poetry Prize. Her work was a finalist in the National Poetry Series, Four Way Books Intro Prize and the New Issues Prize. She is the recipient of the 2009 American Poet Prize from The American Poetry Journal and a Pushcart nominee. She is the curator and editor of the anthology Two-Countries: U.S. Daughters and Sons of Immigrant Parents (Red Hen Press, 2017). Her poems have appeared in various publications and anthologies, including The American Journal of Poetry, Ascent, Cimarron Review, Crab Creek Review, Midwest Quarterly, Nimrod, and The Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine. Read more about Tina at www.tinaschumann.com