Three years after my father’s death
he goes back to work. Unemployed
for 25 years, he’s very glad to be
taken on again, shows up
on time, tireless worker. He sits
in the prow of the boat, sweet cox, but not
facing the body of the craft —he has his
back to the carried. He is dead, but able to
kneel upright, facing forward toward the
other shore. Someone has closed his
mouth, so he looks more comfortable, not
thirsty or calling out, and his eyes are
open and under the brown iris is the
brown line that appeared there in death —
earth under earth. He is calm, he is
happy to be hired, he’s in business again, his
new job is a joke between us and he
loves to have a joke with me, he keeps a
straight face. He waits, naked,
ivory as a carved figurehead,
ribs, nipples, lips, a gaunt
tall man, and when I bring someone and
set them in the boat and push them off he
simply poles them across the river
to the far bank. We don’t speak,
he knows that this is simply someone
I want to get rid of, who makes me feel
small or afraid. I do not say
the way you did. He knows the labor
and loves it. He stares ahead, and when I
dump someone in, he takes them straight
to hell. He wants to work for me
until I die. Then, he knows, I will
come for him, hold out my broad
hand to his, help him ashore, we’ll
embrace like unborn twins, naked,
not breathing, then up to our chins we will
pull the dark blanket of earth and
rest together at the end of the working day.