Author: Claudia Van Gerven

He is old and mutters to himself.

Anger hones him like a blade

his hand on my shoulder, sharp

as a hook. He won’t use his walker, so he glides

down the urine-soaked hallways

in his gleaming wheelchair, like a phantom

or a machine. He does not

believe in his gored feet, his footfalls haunt him

like grandpa’s ghost.

He’s gouged out his eyes, so he thinks

he’s invisible. His robe falls

open, the disowned bones

of his chest blazon like the bars

on a cage. When he thinks

I’m not looking, he flashes his

metallic smile at the empty mirrors

in the dark room of his skull.

Does he see her there, smiling back

the way she used to from her window

her eyes shining in the morning

so you knew it was alright to play

that you could trust the grass, believe

earth to hold you up. Sometimes at night

when you heard beasts in the black corners

of your room, she’d let you sleep with her

then in the warm shadow of her body

it was safe to close your eyes—

but she hung herself, leaving him widowed

and all of us orphaned.

But he never speaks of that

only grinds out curses on my brothers

calls in his lawyers to script

over and over his will.

He wants me to sneak in liquor—

they won’t let him have it in the home.

I won’t do it, but Antigone will.

He spirits the bottle away like his memories

and sips just enough to make sure

he will never see again.


Previously published in Orpheus and Co. (University Press of New England)