for my father
As though only from within the gaps, the circular enclosures, interstices, staves, and serifs, twenty-odd letters or so, also diphthongs, digraphs, and blends blended in an utterance that seemed entirely and only vowels, but for certain minimal ticks, bi-labials and thin fricatives, the enunciations of dust from a distance, from up close the pale and weightless declarations of fog. Only now and then a syllable half-discerned and rarer still a word heard as a known symbol and signifier, usually goddam or son-of-a-bitch, as noun, adjective, adverb, or interjection. He was telling us, or himself, a story, a narrative certain inflections of which suggested one of us ought to nod or respond with our own interjection, with a wow or a really, a then what or a what then, although eventually, his attention as he spoke lit upon the back of his left hand, and it seemed the son-of-a-bitch in question was that very goddam appendage, the color of a scab beneath the thin skin he’d rapped against the wall in a recent fall. A series of long oos and uhs then, a diphthong oy, all of which were interlarded with vaporous, unboned, mostly horizontal, unlipped and toothless whisperthin phantoms of consonants, as though what we heard were the spaces between the cars of a passing train. Like the one he carried me up to sixty years ago, in order that I might reach out with him to touch as lightly as possible each passing freight car, bound southeast from St. Louis, perhaps for a town in Kentucky, whose name consisted almost entirely of vowels.