I feel short of words today. So I am re-posting a kind of travel poem from my Matador Travel blog — about leaving Indonesia, and my father who lives there. Life has been so hectic lately, I feel a bit lost and crowded in the chaos. Poetry always brings me back to a rare kind of silence. It grounds me when I am drifting. I hope, if only a little, I can do that for others. There’s no greater goal for me, really.
to my father
The pain of not seeing you will grow less.
I have learned that much since you left—
that first I will forget how your last clutch stopped my breath.
Next, I will lose your posture stooped with age.
Then, some time after, as I did before,
I will start to forget your face—
your strong nose, thick mouth,
the sad resignation of your eyes.
I am thinking about this,
about the quiet and deadly machine of time
as I watch a Balinese girl
dance around an altar of light.
The beauty of her face
is not in her features but her gaze,
lowered in something quieter than fear,
the most vulnerable offering—
the offering of uncertain grace.
I wonder is she has practiced this,
learned the part of coy Sinta,
or if every night she finds again
the dread of being watched,
if in the faces of these tourists
she can see her own fragility, how terrifying it is.
As I watch her body move,
I recall leaving your home, recognizing
in your eyes that ancient sorrow
that drove you so far to this place.
I could swear that you saw this too,
could swear you felt knee-weak with fault
as this thought traveled through me
and took seed in you—
What will not grow dim,
what will only sharpen
is the image of your pain,
how you will sit hunched over your computer
alone in an alien country
and wonder why I have not written,
why my feet are not padding across your tile,
my hands are not busy cutting fruit at the table.
You will wonder why my coming and
going has startled you to the silence of your life.
You will wonder just how much you gave up.