Monday, September 22, 2014

Father and Daughter - Amanda Strand

The wedding ring I took off myself,
his wife wasn't up to it.
I brought the nurse into the room
in case he jumped or anything.
"Can we turn his head?
He looks so uncomfortable."
She looked straight at me,
patiently waiting for it to sink in.

The snow fell.
His truck in the barn,
his boots by the door,
flagpoles empty.
It took a long time for the taxi to come.
"Where to?" he said.
"My father just died," I said.
As if it were a destination.

Intimacy and heartbreak, whether in a familial or romantic context, go hand in hand.  Being close to someone is allowing them the power to hurt you and accepting that, and in the titular relationship, "Father and Daughter" it means pain and love in equal measure.  Here, a daughter has to tend to her father's death: taking his wedding ring off of his hand, making him look comfortable.  It is a job for family alone.  His wife (presumably a second marriage and the narrator's step-mother, or else why not say mother?) cannot do this job, only his daughter.  It doesn't quite seem real to the daughter that her father has passed ("patiently waiting for it to sink in").

There's a pervasive sense of emptiness about this poem.  The second stanza in particular, with its catalog of the narrator's father's things, abandoned, disused, drives this home.  The narrator, saying "My father just died" absentmindedly to a taxi driver instead of a destination, as if she's got a far away stare in her eye.  It contributes to an atmosphere of loneliness and absence which makes the poem effective and heartbreaking.

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