Wise Poets – Jeffrey McDaniel – Wooden Bench

Jeffrey McDaniel

I was sitting on a wooden bench
when six men wheeled her on a gurney right past me,
except she was inside a wooden box
and the lid was closed. She was on her way
to becoming a skeleton. My father
is definitely a skeleton at this point.
Death is confusing. Is my father the bones
that sit inside a box on a hillside
in Odessa, Delaware? Or is he on the other side
of that keyhole in my mind that I talk into sometimes?
Can he be in two places at once? Am I allowed
to make it up, the way twelve-step programs tell you
you can make up God? God can be a ribbon
on the door, a nail in the wall.
A nail in the coffin. It’s 4:59 a.m. The sky
a deep ocean blue. The birds going nuts
in the trees. Do birds dream?
My daughter likes to tell me her dreams,
especially when I do something bad.
In an hour, she’ll get up for school.
It’s exactly mid-May and half the trees on this street
don’t have any leaves. Do I miss my father?
In his presence, my head would start to throb
like a blister and I’d take naps in random places
to make the throbbing stop. We were close
when I was a child, and he wasn’t lying when he said
he was my history book. The birds are whistling
but they are not whistling for me.