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The Voice That Carried

old man in hospital bed

by Elizabeth Underwood

My father’s brain was dead. They said
this as if it were a fact. As if it were true.
He did lie there, though, in that bed, not his real bed.
In that room, not the room he knew.

It wasn’t even his own body now,
corkscrew appendages
defying all the laws of athletic sciences.
Still, his mouth making noises,
deafening, but not identifiable.
Cries not fully formed like a being
who, suddenly breathing
without the proper apparatus,
would have preferred not to be drawing this
life sustaining poison called breath,
at all.

We heard that sound in our sleep at night.
The-Voice-That-Carried wound around
seething into our dreams from that bed.
We could only hope his brain was dead.

Sixty years ago my father,
like Apollo, god of the sun,
rode his chariot across
the russet brown and green
of tennis courts, dressed in cream
colored flannels. True to form,
he blinded the spectators, golden
with the power and light of his serve.
This Apollo made grasscourts and
hardcourts into temples of art.
This we knew to be true. These were the facts.
We had gleaned it from the mouth of the god,
himself. The Voice, highly trained
in the semantic skills, had spoken
earnestly of the righteous arts
in public and often. And public laughter
from The-Voice-That-Carried
was much like his serve.
True and fast.

The-Voice-That-Carried bothered the children of the god.
They often shook their tow heads and wondered
“Why is he so…happy? Why does he have to
laugh like that, so loud?”
On the telephone to their relatives
it was a holiday, they all talked at once.
The offspring of the god held the phone
a foot away from their heads, knowing
The-Voice-That-Carried could cause pain.

But at the beach, in the waves
as they learned to throw their bodies to the deepness
he seemed louder and mightier than anything scary
that could come from the sea.
And they could hear him always,
above the thunder of surf.
For many loud years
The-Voice-That-Carried would follow them
across the concert hall, from the bleachers at the track
at the end of the song
in the heat of the race
cheering, a clear path of sound
targeted once again like the serve, blinding.
Fast and true.

Now in the night when the sun does not shine
The-Voice-That-Carried comes back, a tidal routine.
It is true. It is fact. It is always the same.
A moan that awakens us from a dream.
A silence that sweats, a dark swallowing pause.
We had been dreaming of the laughter of gods.

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