Kissing My Father

By Joseph O. Legaspi

Three days into his wake my father has not risen.

He remains encased in pine, hollowed-
out, his body unsealed, organs
harvested, then zippered
shut like a purse.

How strange to see one’s face inside
a coffin. The son at my most peaceful.
The father at his most peaceful.
Not even the loud chorus
of wailing family members
can rid us of our sleep.

My mother sits front center.
Regal in black, her eyes sharpened
as Cleopatra’s. Her children, grown
and groaning, quietly moan beside a white
copse of trumpeting flowers.

The church is forested
with immigrants, spent after their long journey
to another country
to die.

Before the casket
is to be closed, we all rise
to bid our final farewells.

My mother lowers herself,
kisses the trinity of the forehead
and cheeks, then motions her obedient
children to follow. One by one my
siblings hover, perch, and peck.

I stand over my father
as I had done on occasions
of safe approach: in his sleep, or splayed
like a crushed toad on the floor, drunk.

I study him, planetary,
distant presence both bodily
and otherworldly, a deceptive
kind of knowledge.
His beauty has waned
but not faded, face surface
of a moon, not ours, I turn pale,
shivering, I place my hand
on his, amphibious.

While my mother places her hand warm on the cradle
of my back, where I bend to fit into my body.

Her burning eyes speak, Do it for me, they
urge, Kiss your father goodbye.

I refuse.

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