My father stood in front of the sink in the bathroom he shared with my mother. The color of the tiny floor tiles was green; and the color of the tiles on the walls, an old mustard yellow. Looking down, unseen, from the second floor window of the house we built next door that my children and I lived in, I could swear it was almost the same color as his skin. He took his time, my father: he took off the watch on his wrist and folded the cuffs of the daytime shirt he wore under an old cardigan. He was going to brush his teeth, gargle with mouthwash, spit with effort: all movements slower now that the rest of him was testing the currents of this new sea his doctors referred to as The Gradual Decline. Pills in the morning, at noon, and again at night for the faltering heart, the heart that skipped a beat like the old record he used to play. Begin, it sang; and beguine—that little fancy, a passing infatuation with the idea of time not yet knighted by sadness. I held still, afraid if I blinked, the future would lose no time unseating us from the surface where we tried to hold our ground.
Poet Luisa A. Igloria (website) is Co-Winner of the 2019 Crab Orchard Open Competition in Poetry for Maps for Migrants and Ghosts (Southern Illinois University Press, September 2020). She was appointed Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia for 2020-22, and in 2021 received 1 of 23 Poet Laureate Fellowships from the Academy of American Poets and the Mellon Foundation. She is the winner of the 2015 Resurgence Prize (UK), the world’s first major award for ecopoetry, selected by former UK poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion, Alice Oswald, and Jo Shapcott. She is the author of What is Left of Wings, I Ask (2018 Center for the Book Arts Letterpress Chapbook Prize, selected by former US Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey); Bright as Mirrors Left in the Grass (Kudzu House Press eChapbook selection for Spring 2015), Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser (Utah State University Press, 2014 May Swenson Prize), Night Willow (Phoenicia Publishing, 2014), The Saints of Streets (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2013), Juan Luna’s Revolver (2009 Ernest Sandeen Prize, University of Notre Dame Press), and nine other books. She is a member of the core faculty of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University which she directed from 2009-2015; she also teaches classes at The Muse Writers’ Center in Norfolk. In 2018, she was the inaugural Glasgow Distinguished Writer in Residence at Washington and Lee University. When she isn’t writing, reading, or teaching, she cooks with her family, knits, hand-binds books, and listens to tango music.
3 Replies to “Portrait of My Father From a Second Floor Window Four Months Before His Death”
This touches me deeply, thinking of my own father’s continuing decline from Parkinson’s… and being unable to see him and knowing he will not recognise me the next time I do.
“the future would lose no time unseating us from
the surface where we tried to hold our ground.”
I am unseated, but did not know how to express it until I read your poem. Thank you.
Thank you Lynne. With deep love, also deep pain…