RUIKO HIGA

twelve o four in the a.m.

weather--brisk
unusual for Los Angeles
message light blinking

my father

the message plays as I
snap windows shut
and my father's
voice fills the room

a deep, gargled mumbling
leaving me still
surprised
attentive

my partner understands nothing
eyes finding mine, confused

a beat, then a smile
its your father
straining to catch a phrase
saying something or the other

a look towards me
what did he say?

he wants me to call him back

in the kitchen
dinner thrown in pots
I'm nervous suddenly
rehearsing lines

in between silences
my partner looks up
eyes--expressive

I like your father

another silence
nothing to say, to do
except drop my stare to
threads of angel-hair
slowly thickening

I think we should spend some time with him

more silence

how do you explain methods
developed over years
the how-to-manual, essentially
on dealing with the alcoholic

that phone-calls get post-poned
till morning
when hes sober

that messages get replayed
to decipher states of mind

that words get decoded

the message is brief
call me when you get home
then silence
TV noise in the background
and the phone goes dead

how do you explain
that its twelve o four

that hes hunched over from heroine
that words spill through slurred speech
that hes vomiting
close to vomiting
that hes swaying off his seat
from unsound mixtures of drugs and alcohol

or to explain
that at twelve o four
he needs me most
to quell the demons
the voices

that I cannot be there
will not be there

that I will not give him
what he's looking for
to get him through the night
to get him stronger

that I will wait
(as I always do)
till morning

when hes sober enough

and clean enough

to remember









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