The Paris Review

Joanna Klink

CANCER (PRAYER FOR MY FATHER)

Far into fever, attached by cords to the soft-clicking machines, he sleepsin a bed in a room not his own.People enter and pass likefogs. He is a slow walkwith limbs that recently gave way.He is part of the blue snowfall.He is very small, sitting on a curbwith skinny legs next to an elegantaunt. He is not yet born.He travels to meet the relativesin Maulbronn and feels the lifting darknesssunk in his chair at night, thinking.He is intensely wrong, obstinate and generous,the one who never seems to grieve,sweaters and wine and violas locked inair. You say: He, too, cannot be found again,he, too, asks only for more alivenessand time. The room is like every roomin that house, sterile and never quiet,but sometimes birds drop into the airabove his sleep and coast for hourson loose currents. There is no firebut weathered blood and skin, a threadedendurance, the peaceof placing your body in the handsof those who might know,the voices saying, Have you eaten,What could you have done.The frost in your eyes is melting or staysstitched. The fragile instruments of bodiesstep into the room and out, the machinecounts two three four, and part of who you aretravels into the glass hallways that are fillingwith warm light. He walksonly for so long. He approaches each sorrowand lets it fall. He is unaccountably at easefor just a single instant, he isnot an important name, he is the crucial maninside the waning fever, the one who taught youto care, he follows the deep taskseven as he surrenders, one by one, his body’sdignities. He is the concert of quiet strings,the sudden gentleness of moss,the tyrant opinion, a confusion of medications.His mind is a room casting infinite lovefrom four walls. My beautiful father,you carried me out into the day of my lifeand let me stand on earth with affectionand force. Why should we fear our disappearance.

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