Ghazal for My Father’s Insomnia

Insomnia is an inheritance. My grandmother’s family ghosts
fill my curtains, whisper dreams of burning. I know most fathers

don’t ask children to proofread speeches about death or carve languages
into flame. In art school, mine scalded his hands until they feathered

with blisters. Decades later, he coats the walls
in fluorescent skulls and flooded monuments. Ghosts father

more ghosts until the family tree buckles under the weight. We eat
parallel midnight breakfasts: my peanut butter toast, my father’s

cereal, four hours away. His own father’s name was twice-anglicized,
reforged in the ocean, first, then wartime. Grandfather,

I wish you’d known me. Grandmother, you tried. Your whole family
was locked in horror; escapees hemorrhaged through coastlines, fathered

children you wanted to love. You spoke five languages but only
used Yiddish for secrets, only spoke of your lost פאטער

in flickering nouns: glare, heat, fury. Your son inherited
your tears and added his own, salting the earth. With no father,

who were you? With no mother, who is he? His death a haunt that lives
in the curtains. The first time you were diagnosed, Father,

you wrote a book; the second, you added a chapter. Now, I slide on
your left shoe and wonder: after surgery, did you lose faith or

just your sense of smell? Was it a kind of prayer, when you sang
Isaiah? Father, when you cup the tea I’ve made in your hands, do you know

how many years we have left?