He rises like a tree bent young in a storm, then forced
to grow into the unnatural curvature, yearning for up.

My father does not bow, for all that weight is gone,
as his father returns to sapling. Returning to seed.

Leaning his veteran bones on the China cabinets,
he chimes tea glasses to their saucers. His other hand
presses into my father’s shoulder, imprinting on his collar.

My father does not grimace, leading this half-life version
of himself with a care he never mustered for me.  

On chair tops and across the empty dining table,
on velvet wallpaper and laminate counter tops,
my grandfather’s fingerprints trace the pathway
from the makeshift bedroom–constructed on the first floor
with a hospital bed and end table–to the bathroom.

My father does not hurry, matching time
in this solemn dance through the tan shag carpet.
His father’s wool socks and harsh shuffles pick up static.

I watch them disintegrate into the yellowing bathroom
where an orange ruler–disposed of shamefully after–
measures for a catheter. My grandfather weeps
as he did when he was a boy at war wanting to fight

for freedom. 

First Published in The Avenue, Issue VII: Freedom, 2021

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