In a picture of a picture there was a man
tagged with your name sitting next to a man
I recognised as your father. He was very small,
nearing a death that had already happened,
though not yet. You were leaning in.
Time shrinks us in places, grows us in others.
Back then we were two city kids,
afraid to go outside, playing jacks
in the living room, scattering, tossing,
foursies, fivesies, ball bouncing across
the room until it disappeared in a wormhole
where it might have reappeared on the other side,
pale pink and glowing in front of a pair
of lost kids traces of our nucleotide
sequences pulsing against youthful fingers.
Your body had changed; your face, unrecognisable.
I remember you walking back and forth
in that tidy box, underexposed, your post-illness
skin translucent, though lit by a distinctive flush
coming over your jaw.
I remember thinking I was almost at the point
of saying goodbye and hung on a little longer.
After so many years, this muted grief, firing,
not for an absence, which has not yet happened
already visible just beyond the frame, but those
tender bodies we no longer inhabit, throwing and scattering.
Who knows what compelled me to answer my father’s call. His tumor resurfacing like the past. Ghosts solidifying. In many ways, there was an us. Cells cycling into sameness of our collarbones, soft lung linings, your face
We gather around the hospital bed in late December 2022 where my Aunty Gail lies, brittle but accepting of the terms on which the cells of her body will soon embark on their mass migration from life to death.