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Tim Bellows

  

Climbing Down

for S.J.

Now that your father’s gone wild with old age
shouldn’t we—all three together—follow the sky and its
nightly freckled lights, those that show
in micro-streaks in the eyes of the blind and those
signaling the madness that clears things up for good,
madness like your father’s tonight? He’s going on,
over a plate of soft lamb, about how he’s looked back—

in the rapid carbohydrate-burning of alcohol drug—
on 15,000 cordial evenings of his boozy years. Seems
for a time he’d find the amber light that lights the way
back to the innocence of rattlers—and maybe the steely grace
of frozen crags. Maybe that other light found in
sky-deeps mapped in a sparrow’s brain, affirmed
in bird-surveyed northern meadows; the lay of the land,
the small blue spikes of flowers reaching up. North Vermont.

Now old and spindly, his hands grasping to own us all,
your father rages in hollow voices not his own. Tonight,
achieving his drunkenness through dinner, he rages
to own all the money-papers and rings. Last week
he kicked in the kitchen cupboard where your mother’d
locked the Scotch. How is it he’s lost sight

of the gorgeous weed tree, the flicking bird that
tips the wind one way or the other by sweet intention?
Missed the ever-steady notes implied by his own backyard trees?
Oak, hickory, sugar maple, ash. Yes, that oak, slow and steady,
out front—shifting the sidewalk pavement up
with a mammoth, woody elbow. But his rants and

old-man stories are in fact our story in branch,
root and moisture-filled flowers in their season, story
of diamond-sharp threads that run clear in and out
of heaven and follow the natural sky. But your father
has lost his central hub and climbs downward. He’s
spread himself tonight, ghastly pale, on our child’s tiny blanket, as if
claiming property. See? In his eyes? See his withered limbs

climbing down—into the psyche, the red furnace
inside his flint-brittle bones? May he pass into some joy.
Even hellfire heals. At the center.
Like a warm light I imagine
from his rum-and-tonic tropics. Light
that burns things true.

   

Tim Bellows is a writing teacher and poet of wilderness and contemplative travels. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, he’s published work in over 200 literary journals and in Sunlight from Another Day: Poems In & Out of the Body. For fascinating insights, see golden.timbellows.com.
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