Poem of the Week | October 06, 2014

This week we offer a new poem by Joseph Fasano. Fasano’s second collection of poems, Inheritance, has just been released by Cider Press Review. His first collection, Fugue for Other Hands, won the 2011 Cider Press Review Book Award, and his book-length poem, Vincent, based on the murder of Tim McLean, will be published in June, 2015. His poems have appeared in The Yale Review, The Southern Review, Tin House, FIELD, Measure, Passages North, The Times Literary Supplement, upstreet, RATTLE, and other publications. He teaches at Columbia University and Manhattanville College, and he lives in the Hudson River Valley.
 
Author’s note:

There are any number of responses to trauma, but “the rage for order” is always there. During a trying experience in my own life, I began to search my mind for guides through that difficult and chaotic territory. When I thought of my father, who has navigated his share of ordeal, I expected to find the image of a figure standing in the country of my childhood, bringing the wilderness into order. Instead, I was surprised and moved to find the image of a man, deep in the privacy of his life, asking his world for another kind of mercy: that it shows him how to “let be”. The irony, of course, is that a poem’s form is always just such a stay against chaos, even when it swears it is not.

 

Mercy

 

When I say night has come
I mean my father, in his long black boots, is standing

 

in the country of his childhood
with a black saddle over his forearms like a terrible book

 

of beginnings and endings; I mean some wild-eyed thing
has knelt down in its unbraided forelocks

 

before him, swishing its sorrel tail
in the North wind. I mean

 

these are his wild wild
hours, my father

 

who is slowly learning to take back
everything he has ever mastered, learning

 

to kneel down
before the great oak doors of the end’s face

 

and look down into that scripture for the words that are not
there, for the hard-wrought hymn to all that’s common.

 

I mean disaster is disaster and disaster.
Tonight I lie down beside my father’s body

 

and listen to the wind
swishing the worn silk curtains

 

of his kingdom, its silence like a brace of broken
horses. Summer, and the peach blossoms

 

tumble through the window, covering my father
with their cargo, abundant

 

as the heirlooms of the spared. These
are the bitter days of summer. When I tell you

 

that my father’s trial is over
I mean the secret scarlet

 

shoulders of his dark heart
that can nest now in the separateness

 

of riches; I mean I have gone out to the broodmare in the low field
and unbridled the darkness of its blazed

 

face, taken out the sisal
from its hair. Listen, a story, one last

 

word: when my father
heard his dark-eyed son was stillborn, he stumbled out

 

to the gelding in the low field
and he offered up his own lips

 

to its forehead, that brute thing he had broken
in its hard time.

 

Then he whispered it the small name of a child.
Father, Unraveler, No

 

One, I pray now
what I may never know

 

he asked for: May swiftness
be the visage

 

of This Kingdom. May the wind lift
our own bones into singing.

 

May dominion, dominion
not be there.

 

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