Download the MP3

The caterpillar tents start appearing
just as the leaves burst their buds,
as if someone with a white marker
were doodling in every crotch of limbs.
My dad goes into the hospital to have
a large, non-malignant tumor
removed from his lower spine,
& I picture a white knot swelling
with caterpillars of pain.
A day after the surgery he’s taking
his first steps without it, this thing
that has made almost every position
of repose impossible for weeks,
forcing him to stand or to walk
slowly for hours each day.
Now it has been thoroughly cast out
through the surgeon’s art,
excised, exposed: bulb that burned
but gave off no light.
Sexless flower. Empty tent.
Be gone. Be gone. Be gone.

Here in the woods where my father returns
in a couple days to resume his walking —
this time to heal rather than assuage —
flashes of scarlet as a tanager
snatches gnats & caterpillars from
the not quite fully opened leaves,
singing a line of his hoarse song
between each mouthful of wings,
each mouthful of spines.

14 Replies to “Incantation”

  1. most quickest of healing to your Dad, Dave
    for him
    and your mother
    and you too

    Plummer’s Hollow struck me/strikes me
    as a perfect place for
    recuperation and restoration

  2. The first four lines; the last four lines. Damn.

    I like hearing you read this. This is one of the real blessings of the internet age, this ability to hear each other read.

  3. Very best wishes to your Dad for a quick and painless recovery, Dave. You are going to let him hear you and the bird performing this wonderful poem by presenting him with a handwritten illustrated version along with a tape recording as a get-well present, right?

  4. Yikes. Sorry about my creepy “haiku”. I went for amplitude of effect without watching over my content. The son reads as malevolent, which was the opposite of my intent. Scratch that poem!

  5. Thanks for all the kind comments. Dad’s home now and is doing about as well as one could hope. Unfortunately, he’s now come down with a head cold on top of everything else. Hospitals are such unhealthy places! Filled with germs, and (at least in the case of this one) serving absolutely wretched food.

    suzanne – I guess so. And I hate complaining about the weather, but lord knows we could use some sunshine. (Today started out bright, but has already gone back to showers.)

    Rachel – Glad you liked the reading. I couldn’t not do it this time, given the title, but I’ve been resisting the temptation for other poems lately because of the likelihood they’ll be revised. It’s a dilemma.

    Bill – Don’t sweat it. It’s quite obvious you meant well.

  6. Dave – Your poem, and the recording, are quite moving. I’ve received cards, e-mails, phone calls, and many assurances of prayers, but this poem is certainly special to me. Thanks for all the support.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.