Father and Son Road Show (Sherman Alexie)

The doctor tells me my father’s story.
How he’ll die if he stops dialysis.
“First confusion, followed by lethargy.
Then toxins shut off the brain.”
I hate this.

Doctor and his certainty, though I wish
I could hate my father, and his weakness.
Of course, I’m lying. Most days, I would
kiss this doctor as he tends the sugar‐
coated mess

My father has made of his life. I confess
to loving my father, a gentle man
whose brutal thirsts have left us all
bereft, and so bereft, I’m to give
a command

Performance‐‐a road show, a song and
dance‐‐and convince my father to continue
dialysis, no matter how he’s planned
to die or not die. I don’t have a clue

How to begin this time, though I’ve
rescued my endless father endlessly,
traveled two thousand miles to buy him
a shoe to fit his amputated foot.

By the simple act of living, marveled
by the mundane, my father mowed the
lawn like Van Gogh painted and spread
free gravel on the driveway like God
created dawn.

God, how often I woke to find him gone,
fleeing the children he loved
and could not feed, as if leaving made
magic, a spell‐song that conjured
fruit, milk, bread, fish, egg, and seed.

“Come back, come back,” I child‐cried,
“I need MY father to return.”
Now, a father of two open mouths
(and souls) who need me,
I’m a primitive: I hunt and gather;
I build totems and pyramids; I am fur
and claw; I believe animals can talk;
I know the world is flat; I’m all cur
raised by wolves; I worship corn,
leaf, and stalk;

A child of the sun, I’ve learned to walk
upright but still run on all fours;
afraid of the dark and fire, in love
with rock and fire, I huddle alone in caves

And pray to my ten thousand gods;
I pray for protection, courage, and
strength to stay

With my father as he chooses the way
this machine will help him live
or not live,
as father and father‐son
separate, loose, broken,
dissolved by dialysis.


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