Things That Cannot Be Compared (Dissonance I)

                           After Sei Shonagon

My father's hand, elegant as typescript, before his stroke. My mother's lefty scrawl, the way she underlined We on my birthday card—We wish you much happiness!— four months after his death. The deep green of this morning's lowering cloudbank, sea lettuce riding the Intertidal. Bleached sheet of the sky back home, Nebraska heat shimmering above the stunned soy fields. Miraculous snowy egret, tall as a woman, feeding with genteel sang-froid on palm fronds outside my mother's kitchen window, so close we might have touched her swanny neck. Black bear cub, lost last night in the widening dark glade beyond the yellow hoops of porch lights, who would not be lured to safety by the game warden's stale doughnuts. Shrill song of gulls scavenging. The flutter and purr of Carolina locusts.

When one has stopped loving someone, one feels that person has become someone else, even though he is the same person.

Substitute ghost. A question of mourning. Unable to mourn.

Red hour of the wolf. No sound except the whirr of fan blades above our borrowed bed, the silvery notes of my mother's wooden cuckoo. She believes it herald of my father's spirit. Each hour I hear it crow, bright cry rising from its mechanical throat like the freed breath of sleepers. It wakes me from my dream of her overlit kitchen, the negative space before the window where my father is not standing, transfixed by the egret, calling to me to Come, see! Where he does not wince as I join him, recoil from his kiss.