My Father’s Autopsy
The room is cold and bright,
so unlike our dark kitchen in Washington Heights
where he sat silently, oblivious
to my mother yelling about his inadequacies,
my sister chatting on her Princess phone.
When he finished his meal,
he pushed his plate back across the table
next to mine, that is as close as we got,
his baked potato skins curling against my milk glass,
the fatty rind of his steak nuzzling my string beans.
The doctors don’t notice his silence now.
For all they know, he was the model father
who spent quality time with the kids—
Shea Stadium, fishing trips, the walks
when he would dispel our fears about
Harvey, the bully next door, or Mrs. Kipperman,
the neighbor with the numbers branded on her arm.
The doctors are most interested in his brain,
perhaps they will unravel a passion we never knew—
a woman who walked into his meat market 25 years before,
an opera he heard when he was a young man in Germany.
Perhaps they will hold his brain to the light
and find the truth about his silence,
that somewhere along the way he got broken
and it hit him while ringing up
a pound of cold cuts, a pint of coleslaw,
or when my mother called him an idiot
in front of my friends.
But the report tells me nothing:
Necrosis of cerebral cortex.
Loss of neurons in thalamus.
It says he became comatose during surgery
when his heart stopped for several minutes,
his words fluttering inside his chest:
the wings of a dying crow.