Cathexis Northwest Press

© 2018 

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O, Canada

When my father was dying, 

he said a lot of funny things that 

he didn’t know were funny

 

In the final stand, as a blue

trail of cold began to climb his legs,

“I will miss you,” he said,

 

“but I have to go to Canada now.”

It has been almost a year

since he made that trip

 

and my hands are hell-bent

on reminding me this morning

that I, too, will die.

 

They reach of their own

accord for his hairbrush, one

of the few items I kept.

 

Not satisfied with the 

fading scent of that, though it 

pleases me to see fragile gray wisps

 

still tucked in the bristles, 

I reach for his hats that I keep on my 

dresser.  They are called

 

flat caps or scally caps

or hooligan caps or driver 

caps and he wore one every place 

 

he went.  They do still smell of him

and look pathetic there, 

zapped of all necessity.

 

do possessions ever forget?

At least they sit, one on top of

the other, able to console each 

 

other, or maybe they retain

enough gumption from 

sitting atop that ornery head

 

of his that they are happy

in retirement.  I take a long

deep inhale, they smell of musty

 

smoke and a hint of disuse 

and suddenly, for once, I know 

just where I want to be.

Danielle Vermette is an actor, a freelance writer and a dog walker living in the Pacific Northwest. She wrote and directed her first play, 'Dear Marna' which opened at Imago Theatre in January, 2019. She studied in the Portland State MFA fiction program and was a finalist (and the Oregon winner) of the 2012 Wordstock fiction contest. She writes regularly for Oregon ArtsWatch and occasionally reviews poetry for the Oregonian. 

"I wore one of these hats to my father’s viewing, and my sister-in-law insisted that I place it upon his head before leaving his body for the final time. I refused. I couldn’t imagine parting with it. I felt fiercely protective of that hat. Here I stood, looking at a body that didn’t resemble my father in the least. But this HAT….its whole purpose was my father. It smelled like him. No way could I leave it to the crematory. Anais Nin once wrote, “something is always born of excess.” I think this poem comes from a place -- not necessarily of excess grief -- but an excess of that listlessness that seemed to accompany me following his death. I really believe when we lose someone, the heart never stops searching for them, and the hands, by extension, tend to do fidgety, unbidden things -- like reaching for objects of their own accord."