For my father, whom I remember with fondness and complete love, and whose passing I celebrated with this constructed artifice written in the early '90's. Reading this poem aloud in a college poetry class brought on performance panic attacks that haunted me for over two decades. Nothing is simple.
FOR EDWIN A. MERRICK III, 10/1/14- 4/9/85
I saw you to auditions,
steering a rented wheelchair past
many things we daily take for granted,
onto an antiseptic stage
where your veins were infused
with some hack director's concept
of the substance of the play;
to no good end, for in the
end there is no stifling this playwright's primal theme.
Of necessity, father mine, no doubt, the play will out.
You could not choose a role to play
but one was chosen for you
whose costume fit you badly
as if made for another actor. You
had to wear it anyway: After all, you
were the star.
The play progressed by agonizing stages,
its scenes redundant,
its audiences losing patience, stalking out in anger, only to
return, drawn by the perverse lure of its potent message. I
became your own reluctant understudy, awake whole nights
attendant to your every breath, attentive to impending change, alert for the cue to your final scene,
prompting you the lines you dropped. I
turned you on your side for exercise. I
bathed your static wounds. I
fed you false encouragement,
laughing at the jokes and clapping, quietly.
when dramatic momentum stalled, I
quit the room for air. You
took advantage of my brief absence
to demonstrate artistic independence.
On that pitch-black stage, to that empty house,
you performed the denouement.