My Father-in-Law Arrives for the Last Time

A week to the day after you died,
here you are on the front porch
in a postal carton—as much of a surprise

as if you’d arrived unannounced
in your bucket hat and tattered red jacket,
your hair unruly with age, crooked hand

clutching a jar of marmalade. Always
the same gift, though you were the only one
who ate it. And here I am, not-quite-daughter,

the only one home to take you in, surprised
by the heft of what is left of you, a boisterous,
blustery life already converted to stills:

journeys to libraries, to symphony halls,
to museums and monuments—the Oracle
at Delphi, for heaven’s sake. Grand cathedral

or humble church, your voice like thunder
in pulpit or pew, which was anywhere
you were. Even in our house,

you’d pound the table to make a point,
never mind that it scared the dog. All this
in a box too small for all you were,

yet much too heavy for the frailty of last year—
legs like twigs, skin gone thin, skull
of a baby bird. But you walked

and walked and walked the city,
even on the last day, when you strode
into the June sunlight, lungs alive

with morning-glorious air—setting off
for the arboretum and the end of your life,
which came as a blinding sizzle and pop,

like the flash of an old-time camera,
and under the dark cloth, the photographer:
your god.

Brett Warren is an editor whose poetry has been published in The Comstock Review, Green Fuse, Halfway Down the Stairs, Cape Cod Poetry Review, Unbroken, Right Hand Pointing, and Provincetown Magazine, among others. She holds a BA in English literature from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two smart-alecky blind cats.

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1 Response to My Father-in-Law Arrives for the Last Time

  1. L.K. Latham says:

    Excellent picture of both people.

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