Dair & Cré-umha / Oak & Bronze*
The plain truth is my shoulders
are almost numb with tension,
oakey, not in a whiskey way,
but more the barrel holding, holding.
What I can’t do is hold my father
back from his ingrained pride,
gathering unmasked with friends
unprotected. While they love
my father, this malady is a mebd.
Did they hug hello?
Did the couple from the condo
building -- all those public
surfaces -- wash the hands
that held one curve of a bowl
as my father the other?
This pandemic is a context
masked in granular confusion:
we’ve all been tested, it’s
safe to share féasta, gather in
close for comfort, right?
Which headline? What day?
My father’s hugs are healing, even
over video chat, solid as an oak, as heavy,
completely surrounding. My six oaks,
though they whisper their waking each
Imbloc, can’t hold me. One, a red oak, fell
from wind just at Beltane. Our ancestors stilled
uicsce beatha from wheat, rye, barley, into oak
barrels and made them bronze. Whiskey was a ward,
sláinte, water of life, then illness, eventually a weapon,
a bright and murderous alloy.
Comorbidities include: heart conditions.
His heart beat a relaxed 70 in the ventricles,
but a panicked 140 in the atria. Like most
hearts now, his can’t calibrate emotion.
He texted a pic of his latest last-whiskey
after the latest defibulation.
Comorbidities include: cancer. Radiation
starts Monday. What day will his
immune system confuse erythrocyte
for corona and then clot? He’s so slow
to humble, to just hold back a little.
People of oak and bronze are dare and careless.
We see a fetch before a loved one falls.
The luck, the bounce back, the devil may care.
The speeds my parents drove, the races home from the bar,
the way my mother shone a Brigit victorious,
bronze with sun-gleam even past my young bedtime.
My shoulders kenning this tension,
anticipating mourning, as if steaming over a fire
of ambient grief and soon cured, bound
round with metal, holding, holding, reticent, drained
and refilled, cooping up my breath.
Maybe that’s what barrels are,
just bounce and roll,
smash and spirit.
*From Irish Gaelic -- Dair : oak, Cré-umha : bronze, mebd : confusion/war goddess, féasta : feast, uicsce beatha : whiskey/water of life, sláinte : health.