D.G. Geis, “Psalm 152 (A Song of Ascent)”

Firman Houghton Award, selected by Sam Cha
Winning Poet: D.G. Geis, “Psalm 152 (A Song of Ascent)”


Psalm 152 (A Song of Ascent)

Dying of Parkinson’s
my mother’s handwriting
grew smaller.

As if determined
to erase themselves,
the words conspired
to see what late crumbs
could be shaken loose.

How at the end
her mind faltered,
like an engineless plane
or a misbehaving child;

and lovely Lois
got mean,

the kindness stuttered
right out of her,
          a resentful tremolo,

too old and far gone
to renege on any deal,

neither continent
nor competent to choose–

                    the microscopic postcard
of her life
not even worth
the stamp it took
to mail it.

And mistaking me
for my dead father,
about their sex life,
the loss of her studio,
and her inability to paint–

not to mention
the ingratitude
                              of her children.

And how God,
like an inattentive husband,
half-listening, had yawned
at her Fred Astaire lamentation

the way sleepers on waking
rub their eyes,
and go back to sleep

It was no substitute, her prayers,
for the real thing;
like an alcoholic’s
                              sparkling water,

it only pointed
to the greater loss.

Like my poor father, predeceased.
Glad, I’m sure,
to finally be rid of himself–
his catheter snaked
                              into the darkest corners
of his bladder,
a urological Frankenstein
                                        cobbled together
from mismatched bits
of a jigsawed stomach,

haunted by the shadow of a tumor
large enough for a radiologist
to tell time by—

grateful, I’m sure,
for the whole mess
to go up in smoke
                    like one of his cheap cigars.

My parents
sparred for 65 years,
familiarly and without ceasing.

Their rope-a-dope marriage
went the distance–
                              a draw by any honest referees’

To love, I learned from them,
is to contend
                              even to the bitter end.

Bookended now,
they can have their barbed colloquies
without rancor
                                        and in peace.

At last a meeting of two hearts,
                    two minds,

                              blended perfectly.

He in one cool corner
of their columbarium niche;

she wedged, quite comfortably,
in the other.


D.G. Geis
D.G. Geis is the author of Fire Sale (Tupelo Press/Leapfolio) and Mockumentary (Main Street Rag). He divides his time (unequally) between Houston, Galveston, and Dublin, Ireland.