Five Songs for Daddy
Do you see the moon? Dik.There. Behind the clouds. No stars.
The wind is shaking the vardo,
shaking the mirrors on every wall of the vardo.
The mirrors reflect the moon.
four mirrors four moons four children
four moons in the vardo
shining on the children
Lizzie Lee’s vardo always on the road.
The wheels of the vardo turning
Wheels that carry them across the north
Tikno Daddy the little one playing the bosh, working the puppets
wheels of the vardo carry them across the north
across the north and back
Eight year old Daddy loses an eye. Look. Dik.
Here’s his new, eye made of glass
The deep brown iris that looks at everything sees nothing
his eye a mirror reflecting the worlds.
The bright world of hedges, fire, the stream
Shadow world of stones and fists
The shore disappears
they are pulled away by wind and currents
no vardo no mirrors
nobody throwing stones at Lizzie Lee and her children
they cast off their skins in a new country on a new road
Canada, without shadows
Beds in a shed a tobacco farm by Tillsonburg
Lizzie Lee and her children bending to the leaves Every day
Three puppets on the bench.
Twelve year old Daddy builds the frame, stretches the leather,
carves the wooden eyes the wooden hands,
attaches the eyes to the mechanism,
makes them wink,
makes them open, flirt, flutter, see.
Sixteen year old Daddy.
Daddy’s hand in the puppet.
Turning the head, opening the mouth. Speaking. Speaking the world.
Twenty year old Daddy goes away, leaves them behind –
Lizzie, Father, Willy, May, Lillie
Daddy loves fields and rivers
Daddy loves painting loves making rings and necklaces
loves Karl Marx
loves trading, selling: cameras, cars, sewing machines, silver
loves lighting a fire driving past farms into the vesh
loves finding the right place for the vardo
He cried once
on his knees in the dirt
Arms lifted to the sky
His voice too big for his throat.
I am twelve I think I don’t know why he’d cry in the shadow of our vardo
The shadow a dark slash that swallows my father
the sun low in the sky people are watching His hat on the grass, fallen off lying there
good eye clenched, glass eye staring tears pouring from both eyes
the living and the dead
The doctor says it was a stroke. Daddy is trying to talk.
He says ah.ah.ah.
His glass eye looks at the ceiling.
Does the other eye close at night, turn inward to see what’s left?
Dik. Dik. Dik everything, dik nothing.
The story he was about to tell
caught in his throat caught
caught at the last minute in his throat breath
breath rattling like leaves
The story he was about to tell it will never be heard
his tongue winds backward into the past, into the past, to vardo, violin, mirrors
the language they swallowed
when they got off the ship
will never be heard is pulled back into the cave of his body
his breath stops
What’s left are two puppets
sometimes we bring them down from the attic
working their mouths, speaking for them
in silly voices
but their truth withheld
swallowed by Daddy
in his last breath