Where Heaven Is
The photograph of my father and my uncle as boys shows them standing in a Kansas field. They both have their hands behind their backs, as if in denial of the hard work they did daily on the farm. What strikes me most are their determined, masculine faces. They must be eight and eleven, or nine and twelve, but already their jaw lines are strong, their thin shoulders well defined and their poses, even at rest, man-like.
When the sky darkens
and the air is still
the farm boy steers his tractor
into a ditch to wait
until the tornado passes
During the last days of my uncle's life he moved between delusional periods and great warmth. His expressions of love were profuse. When my father called him on the day before he died, uncle Jon gushed with love. He hoped to see my father in heaven. He was grateful that my father had been his brother. My father, whose hearing is very poor, hung up the phone on my uncle in the midst of this showering. Later, when my cousin called my father back to tell him he had hung up too soon, my father said that my uncle's illness and their talk of childhood stories had inspired him to write a book about himself. My cousin and my brother laughed long and hard. My sister did, too. The two men, one giving and one self-important had a final conversation true to the trajectories of their lives.
when love misses its mark
can the arrow land
on someone else?
pierced heart full
his words in my ears
Writing my uncle's memory book was a deep pleasure for me, though secretly I also held some vengeance in my soul. How would my father feel to see the book, the pictures, the stories painstakingly laid out for the man who was loved by all who knew him? Measured against my father's accomplishments, could the slim little book hold its own?
My uncle points to my father in the picture. "He's the one I'm worried about," he said, "that one right there."
"Me too," I say, making an easy translation from Christianity to simple humanity.
Uncle, show me
the one that let you forgive
a hundred angers, a hundred slights
so I may find where heaven is