My Father's Vigil
by David Platzer
My crippled father
lies in his bed,
a silent vigil,
waiting for life,
waiting for death.
He lies inert,
no movement left in his hands or feet,
eyes seeing but unable to read.
He lies inert and stares,
but what does he see?
The television’s flashing images,
incitements to war in Iraq.
our country is threatened,
we must fight and kill,
The same old webs of lies
the Nazis spun.
Or does he look to his own past,
the little house in Brooklyn,
his two sisters,
the other younger.
Then there was the day they brought his baby brother
home from the hospital,
the brother he saw born
the brother he saw buried.
Does he see his sister Millicent
whom he found
after her suicide?
And what about the Aleutian islands
in the war,
Italy, France, Holland, Austria after,
comrades and friends of the thirties and forties?
Playing Schubert’s music on the piano,
reading the great books,
studying mathematics at Columbia
all the while living at Brooklyn
then sharing a Village walk-up
with a woman
we’ll never know but he might remember.
Then courtship, marriage,
happy years of small children
he didn’t want to bring into a world he found too awful.
The compromises of working for a big company,
using his talent to work on government programs he hated,
programs for killing people, destroying towns and villages
in far away countries.
“Don’t ever work for anyone else,
be your own boss,
otherwise you’ll always have to raise your hand and ask:
‘Teacher, can I leave the room please?’”
The Iraq War playing on the television.
“I don’t like it,” one of his few comments.
Most of his life,
what he felt,
he kept to himself,
hardly to be revealed
the aching, crying sad, painfully romantic little boy
hidden inside his exterior.
O why such a hard old age,
why so much sadness?
He said he was born old,
weeping with the music of Schubert and Beethoven,
marveling at the beauties of Italy,
delighting in women from afar,
enjoying food and red wine.
Then all these things gone,
brother taken from him,
clinging to life,
the last false friend,
until the end.
Copyright: David Platzer
8 October 2002 revised 28 September 2004
95 avenue de la République
0033 1 43 743085
0033 6 63 79 71 87
My Mother's Last Moments, by David Platzer
My Father's Vigil, by David Platzer
Uncle Kenny, Home in Heaven, by David Platzer
George Harrison, by David Platzer
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