Some nights, you sing, in-tune and off
Your rocker, keeping time with two spoons beat
Against your thigh, a sweet
And husky “Down in the Valley”
Until an unexpectoranted cough,
A gasping grand finale
Reminds how near I am to death.
You sleep diagonally in bed, cry out
All night for S—no doubt
Still haunted by her QVC
Deliveries, her baby’s-breath
Bouquet, the sun-brewed tea
She’d spill on any surface—your words
A schizophasic garden I want to tend.
I pray for fear and send
Each intercession up like the thin
Three-harmony Sabbath hymns the birds
Out-sing each week. Church, kin,
The land you cleared each fall for cords
Of winter wood and Balm of Gilead:
All gone to seed. Half-mad,
An avatar of age, gone piece-
Meal, you sing someone else’s words.
Tonight, when silence has lease
On you and all I can afford are lamp-lit
Dreams of planting cognates in the hollow
Of your mind—steed and swallow,
Wife and breath—let me go
To a secret place, un-understand, and admit
The words I do not know.
Jake Ricafrente’s work has appeared in Chicago Quarterly Review, The Cincinnati Review, The South Carolina Review, and elsewhere. He holds an MFA from The Johns Hopkins University and a PhD from Texas Tech University, and he served as a Rotary Foundation Fellow and Writer-in-Residence at the University of the Philippines.