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December 23rd

Dad gets his antibiotic at 6 a.m. and midnight; he has some sort of pneumonia; there’s been no fever and the coughing has stopped, but still he gets more antibiotics until Monday midnight. I gave him the pill at 11:30 and got him to bed. He had fallen asleep watching the Eagles vs the Giants game. At 2 a.m. he rang the bell—Akram heard it first and woke me up—I thought it was 6 a.m. and I had to give Dad an antibiotic again. But he had to go to the bathroom, got out of bed and I walked with him as he went with his walker. I waited while he moved his bowels, then Dad wiped himself, got up off the toilet, and—my turn—I cleaned him as well while he leaned against me.


Dad washed his hands in the sink and made his way back to bed. Cachito had been behind the couch in the living room lying next to the radiator, but when Dad sat on the bed, the cat appeared meeowing, jumped up and they both lay down together making their noises, their sounds. In the kitchen I washed my hands—You are supposed to do it for as long as it takes to sing Happy Birthday, which is what I did.

Morning, a crow caws in the field waiting for more food. Not now, buddy—later on. I sit by the window on the second floor in what is now the guest room looking out at the backyard, or the side yard really. For years there had been an apple tree here obstructing the view; in fact the branches came right up to the window and made a noise scraping like they wanted to come in when there was wind.

Its blossoms were as beautiful as it gets when they fragrantly welcomed every spring, but the apples were small and sour and stretched the mouth taut if you took the time to gnaw on one, so small and bitter it seemed impossible to make the effort to make anything with them, but sometimes now that I remember they did get yellow and maybe a little sweet if you waited long enough for them—anyway both the blossoms and the bitterness are gone.

Now I can see clearly down to where the swamp is and the cars on 322, hidden by pines, go by, heard but not seen. The ground is frosty cold, a frozen green lawn with some snow at its edges, but it is supposed to get warmer and that snow will be gone.

I’ve been making chapbooks with the poems I wrote in the 1970s when I was in my 20s. The chapbook I just finished and printed out, a dozen or so copies for Christmas presents, I picked up while looking out the window and began to read it again. It’s called Home written between 1974 and 76 when I went from 25 to 27. “Perfect, perfect,” I thought happily and then as I read The Noose I saw an erratum—I couldn’t believe it!


Here is the poem. Can you see the mistake?

The Noose

Art, the noun, is holy
though its adjectives tend gory
as that guitared comet, Jimi Hendrix,
a young poet who went beneath his vomit.
Cannibalism’s commonplace
among survivors on lost summits.

If God is Love than Art is God.
Destruction’s Creation, The Way.
Just be careful where you stand
your actions are boomerangs
even when it’s Love you project
to break your enemy’s neck.

Saint Peter understood.
He said, “Hang me upside down.”
Saint Francis fled his nice warm bed
to die on the cold ground.
“But God is dead,” Nietzsche said
going immediately out of his head.

No, no, not guitared; guitared is a word I made up; that’s legitimate. “If God is Love than Art is God” should be “If God is Love then Art is God,” “than” should be “then,” not a comparison of things, but a conclusion, a place finally in time. I shook my head a little sadly—I’ve already mailed out several copies to friends—but also with good humor, or with a resigned smile anyway. How did this obvious little erratum happen, slip by my brain and eyes? I have read it a million times! Why do I see it now this morning as I look out the window? If a writer is artful and loving, the mistakes will not matter; corrections, always seeing, always seen, will happen (my hope and my guess). It seems whenever I give a poem to someone that is when I see it and not until then. It needs another’s eye to be complete and end.

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