Ghazal for Papa
How difficult for you to be Papa.
Death at least should have been easy, Papa.
Given three months, you took almost three years.
You were never one to hurry, Papa.
You went hard, a thousand nights of cancer.
I despised your practiced ennui, Papa.
Your wife grew frail while you stripped yourself lean.
Did you mean to steal her from me, Papa?
She clears refuse from the beach, brings it home.
We're laden with bags of debris, Papa.
She’s brittle now. Her bones crack in my arms,
As fragile as thin ivory, Papa.
I surprised myself by wishing you dead
But could not watch you die. Could she, Papa?
I never knew you to touch the ocean.
The ash you’ve become knows the sea, Papa.
I've come unmoored, grown ruthless without you.
I can't forgive you. Forgive me, Papa.
Sevenling (I need to find)
I need to find a place to hold the tired
tatters of your fingers, the ligaments and tendons,
everything that bound you reduced to ashes.
I cannot raise you, cannot tell you what is gone,
cannot number your pieces. They will not
slot together until I build a speaking mouth.
I cannot put my hand on your disembodied shoulder.
Shower Scene for Jeanne Marie Beaumont
Maybe it is my fault for remembering
just then that Hitchcock used chocolate syrup
for the blood, or that Janet Leigh was
a thief who thought she was on the road
to ruin but decided to come clean instead.
Everyone forgets these things.
I stood in the bathtub three days after
the latest excision, my fingers
delicately probing the underside of
my breast, the ridge of tissue
hardened from four earlier, smaller
invasions, one every other year
for the first eight years of my marriage,
as the cyst returned, filled, burned
with infection, was removed.
A cautious fingertip walk over
repeated violations until I found the fraying
edge of gauze. Three days without
a shower, three days of my husband's
wincing as he swabbed and re-dressed
a wound I couldn't see, had left me
ready to have it out, have it gone.
Maybe it was my fault—I knew
the gauze would be ugly, dark with
clots. I knew there would be blood
on the white porcelain between my feet,
knew it would dilute and swirl.
I didn't know how tired it would be,
how brown, how thin, or how
it would lighten to sepia as it snaked
towards the drain, but still be so clearly
blood, my blood, still in a solid stream,
my blood slipping straight down the pipe
and out below the street. I didn't know
there would be little bubbles of fat
—my breast! I thought—traveling with
it, bobbing cheerfully in the wash.
I don't remember taking the curtain
down, the rings popping open, or spilling
half out of the tub while the water
began to run clear. I don't know if my cheek
held onto a single droplet like a tear
or if my eyes were closed or open
as the room spun and pulled away.
All I remember is how much that blood
looked like chocolate syrup stirred
into some milk, and later, the nurse,
her hair pulled up and back
into a loose, gray granny knot.
Ruth Foley lives in Massachusetts, where she teaches English for Wheaton College. Her recent work is appearing or forthcoming in River Styx, Measure, The Ghazal Page, and Umbrella, which just nominated one of her poems for a Pushcart Prize. She also serves as Associate Poetry Editor for Cider Press Review.