August 15, 2014: My father is alive and poised to leave the third CHSLD Vigi
he has been placed in—between hospital stays—since the beginning of this year
His doctor tells me that his diagnosis has changed again, from vascular, to
frontotemporal dementia, both of which are fatal
He is headed for the Douglas, a mental institution I grew up fearing and the
subject of countless casual diagnoses among friends as in
That lady belongs in the Douglas, the lady with the slate gray beehive wearing a
shower curtain in the Roman fashion, and tropical Vans
She was the mother of my childhood friend. My mother and I watched the police
muscle her into a paddy wagon, as she struggled and smoked
And said, of all of us, “Regardez mes voisins , voir comment ils rient!”
as my mother’s beautiful face bathed in tears
It has been long enough that my sister, brother or I slip up and say
or “Mom’s money”—left with nothing, she sleeps fitfully, gets up,
Having packed a bag with wax-paper-wrapped peanut butter sandwiches,
magazines, change for the tuck shop, a ruby red apple
She gets into her old car and drives, back and forth all day,
which makes my father alternately irritated, or infatuated
The days, each of our days, are rated according to his mood: a very
good day means that he ate well, and talked companionably before falling asleep
Doped up and beyond wanting, he sees desire for what it is,
the dead body of a whore (qui) Moisir parmi les ossements
When we spoke yesterday, he cried because I am his child, and he misses me
today he told me to buzz off and flicked the phone at my mother
Because I didn’t understand the sequence of numbers he recited,
And would not find his childhood Pee Wee team and kill them,
“Please, would you listen to me? They have to die”
I do not know and likely never will, what these kids did to him,
to my strong, shy father
But for one lurching moment, I see myself reaching backwards and lining them
using handkerchiefs as blindfolds and bindings
And executing them in a panoramic sweep, or at least,
shooting their hands and knees, I would scream
“Look what you’ve done, you heartless monsters!”
as the blood retched into puddles,
I would splash through them, singing in the warm, dark rain.
Strawberry month, long after the blood moon, the bleeding orbits in my
Spread over us: I was counting fear, dropping the decimal, and starting over as he
slipped and took the stairs like a rocket.
What time is it, he said. What time is it?
he asked until the ambulance came,
And this terrible news reached out for all of us.
I was struck with paralysis,
But He carried me across the plank floor, where the scorpions loiter, on the
wolf-gray night the stars fell as
Hard silver spurs: He smells something like Vetivier and orange zest:
His chest zings beneath his light linen robe,
Printed with pirates with sabers in their mouths and He smiles at my questions,
Are You angry with us… Sir?
Then He smacks the moon from the sky like a piñata and my father and I swipe it
until a hundred answers, shaped like little animals, are disgorged.
The Corpses of the Future
My father says, gesturing to the foyer where
The coven of fatsos roll together for lunch
And a couple of hours of vicious small talk:
I move him forward, past misshapen men with speckled heads,
Past the screaming lady’s dark quarters, Mama! (is all she ever says)
Past Mr. Ford, screaming “Put my leg down!” then, “Put my leg up!” in cadence
past the blue room, lit by shadows, where a small woman perches on her bed,
Looking at the window, at the brick wall it faces,
We stop at the corner space I call the Disco.
Two white benches meet at the corner by a tall plastic tube filled
with bright, darting fish.
There are buttons to be pressed, which make bubbles and foam shoot up
beneath a canopy of dead strobe lights.
The woman in the greasy ponytail joins us, and scowls Mais je m’assois toujours là,
We just keep looking at the chubby green and yellow fish.
“She’s one of them,” he says,
“One of the captains. Decorated too, for her bravery.”
“What a nice girl,” he says and smiles. Her mouth makes an ugly, upside-down
wicket and I stand and wheel my father away.
“You make me sick,” I say to the woman as we pass.
“You’re sick? My poor little girl,” Dad says his head heavy on his neck,
How flowers list on their stalks,
how the music soars then falters in its fright.
“The Corpses of the Future” I write in the little Mead memo pad: I am
He asks me to add force majeure and velvet dreams.
An excerpt from The Corpses of the Future, a new collection of poems.
Lynn Crosbie's latest novel, Where Did You Sleep Last Night?
is forthcoming May 2015 via House of Anansi Press.