H e a r t S o n s & H e a r t D a u g h t e r s of A l l e n G i n s b e r g
N a p a l m H e a l t h S p a : R e p o r t 2 0 1 4 : A r c h i v e s E d i t i o n
The Empty Chair
a sequence for my father, Robert Cope, 1920-2008
Flight to Phoenix
in seat staring out window at clouds,
I look into my empty hands—
think of his face, my own a mirror
thru which I can see him
& in his, the pattern of my being.
I followed his canoe, early evening, he
looking back as I swam my first long half-mile
as he later followed me up Bright Angel.
sorrow we both contained, how many tears,
madness we passed
& left, to keep the heart secure.
he was a deliberate hiker thru sage & castled butte,
his camera imaging the mirror of our days:
a fly on yellow cactus flower near walls of vishnu schist,
the son in full stride on switchback below,
the thousand-year handprint in sinagua doorway.
In My Father’s House
we walk thru his rooms, sit where he sat, tell stories—
the wild ride back from Hana, his teenage self scaling
Long’s Peak on the front face where none now climb,
hiking beneath Taquamenon, vision thru falling water,
the eagles trailing the boat a mile from shore—
the silences are deep, hollow, empty.
sometimes we slip & speak of him in the present.
out his windows the line of browned peaks
rises against the clear sky.
the saguaros are in bloom,
acacia throw out bright petals.
the mirror casts backward thru ancestors
toiling land & turning lathes, scripture ever in their hands—
Quaker faces lit with simple gifts,
always the shadow in the corner of the eye,
the evening dance turning, passing time & light,
beloved who bears one from the dark
wrapped in blankets beneath the still moon.
rapt, shaken, & he
is with me, looking out thru my eyes, his hand
my hand in the garden, cutting, giving life. yet he
is not here,
a breeze in the acacia, then silence.
how swaddle myself
with blankets long vanished & recall a father’s eye
overlooking my child-sleep?
The Empty Chair
in memoriam my father
now there is an empty chair when we gather, for him—he is
in waves lapping the shore at Saguaro Lake, in the breeze
at the Muskegon breakwater & on your brow as your craft
turns the currents sailing surely toward Mackinac, Turtle Island—
pathfinder, he is sure beside you when you survey pines & birches,
lose yourself in tough memory in Phantom Ranch Canyon sunset—
his hand takes yours when you push off into new streams, daunted;
he is still beside you, silent, sure as a full moon in empty sky.
desert sunrise, saguaros in bloom, sotol plumes & skyrocket phlox,
lush yellow-bloom’d oleanders along the path all bear his signature.
the empty chair shows we are all beside ourselves, & while the silent
night bears tears, memory is also a mirror wherein we find the seal
& imprint that shows we are his, that the shared sign in kin & kind
is our charge & journey we make, the absent presence borne within.
[Originally published in NHS 2008, http://www.poetspath.com/napalm/nhs08/David_Cope.htm.]