Elegy for the Ghost of my Father

When you dream that someone who is still alive
has come to sit at the foot of your bed

as a ghost, it's either a premonition or your fear,
aided by dinner's beef and potatoes, still heavy

in your belly. That's what happened one night
when you didn't get home at the time

you said you would, from a trip to Manila. In my room,
under the drape of mosquito netting, I opened

my eyes and saw you in a bright checkered shirt
you didn't own, hat in your hands, wordless, eyes

smiling. When you died it was at the very end of July,
more than a decade later: most of the city

still in ruins from an earthquake, the furniture
scuffing the floor with each aftershock.

For so many years that followed, I'd see you everywhere:
the hem of your yellow robe disappearing around

the hallway, the smell of your aftershave trailing
like a curl of smoke. You'd come into my dreams

and speak, and it was the sound of your voice as I
remembered it, though I barely retained each

salutation. I was told my grieving was the reason for each
return; or my incessant questions, having been

pushed to the front of the line. And unless it softened
or I learned how to be the grownup and the parent,

your ghost would keep rowing back, unable to ford
the crossing. I don't recall the exact moment

I must have finally learned to let you go. You don't
visit me in dreams anymore, though I still address

you in poems. I wonder who's dreaming that I've returned,
though I haven't left like that yet; what look or gesture

could communicate across the ether everything our
witless hearts are so incapable of putting into words.

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