H.M. Merjian: Father Phantom

“I desperately tried to shake him off, but the monster pressed his thighs tighter and tighter              around my throat until I could no longer breathe.”
Sinbad: “Thousand and One Nights”

When I grew older the other creature appeared,
The second father formed, a putrid pisachee
He carried on his back, its nails knived into his
Muscled shoulders, like the stinking old man who
Seduced Sinbad with his simpering, scaly needling,
Clawed to his neck, the hump of him, weedling,
Like a bulbous tumor, fetid, bourgeoned in sepsis,
This fated monstranz whose shape and mass was made
From the impost of impiteous rue, the self’s sacred
Shame, taken on, carried by my sundered father
On his broken back, the man never able to free
Himself from the sly consumption of his memories.

(When a dog becomes blood-lover, killing chickens,
We would tie the rotting carcass on his back, neck,
Hoping the stinking flesh would thwart, repulse, cure.
Cruel antithesis: “to hate the need; to need the hate.”)

I began to see this other father, this furtive
Doppelgänger, suck-bag, like a mind’s poultice,
Drawing out of my dad his suns, his stars —
His life — to think of him and his Shames,
As if he “a poisonous Bunch-back’d Toad
Deformed, un-finish’d” — how he despised
This burden of beetling memories, how the
Small glories of life had bereft him —
Exiled, orphaned, speechless and sorrowed,
Hunted, haunted, murdering, ruefully
Tortured, ankylotic and helpless, unable
Finally, to breathe even in his America.
“America, America” — he would sigh. Never mind.
He never knew us.

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