2013 Issue: Sean Brendan-Brown: Ten Thousand Shields and Spears (poem)

Ten Thousand Shields and Spears
By Sean Brendan-Brown

The VA surgeons finished
my father with a genre of cuts.
I lit his cigarettes below scarlet keloids—
humor still in him
he wrote someday these really will kill me.
His last request was cremation
so cancer would know fire.

When it was over I took him to the place
of burning, listened to the roar of furnace.
I shook his can of ashes into Lake Michigan.
Fragrant diesel lapped them up & I prayed
“Earth, reassemble him with pig iron
bones, draw his heart in quartz.”

My father loved winter, laughed
at my ineptitude with cold’s rules—
my inability to fix, with a slap, the radio.
Today, ice closed Cedar River, ten thousand
spears rattled glass shields. If this shack had
value I’d buy my way warm.

Santa’s coming the TV warns: another sad
quarrel; trees stripped, scabrous rose petals heaped.
Expect ice dad’s radio gloats. I switch it off,
vacuum tubes exhale
heat onto the bull’s-eyes of my palms.

The radio doesn’t speak anymore
and as dad’s not here to fix it so it remains—
hot box tick-ticking, without news.

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