Monday Sep 24

David Rigsbee  is the author of seven previous full-length collections of poems, and his The Red Tower:  New & Selected Poems will be published by NewSouth Books in May.  He is also the author of four chapbooks, of which the most recent, The Pilot House, won the Black River Poetry Prize from Black Lawrence Press and will be published in December 2010.  He is the author of two works of criticism (on Carolyn Kizer and Joseph Brodsky, whom he also translated), and editor of two anthologies, the most recent of which, Invited Guest:  An Anthology of Twentieth Century Southern Poetry (The University of Virginia Press, 2001) was named a notable university press book by the American Library Association.  His work has appeared in The American Poetry Review, The Georgia Review, The Iowa Review, The New Yorker, The Iowa Review, The Ohio Review, Poetry, Prairie Schooner, The Sewanee Review, The Southern Review, and many others.  He is the 2010 recipient of the Sam Ragan Award for contributions to North Carolina arts. 
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Immortal Soul
 
 
When the cancer rose to his brain,
my father started talking in terms
of his “immortal soul,” which was unlike
the old talk of that gentle man.
One day, near the end, though wasted
to a bag twist, he went berserk
and lunged from his hospital bed
driving the nurses from the room,
as he wheeled his bed like a wagon
between himself and his tormentors.
In split-tailed hospital gown
he whirled and caught me coming
through the door.  He had just
got his hand around the TV stand
and was about to pull the set,
complete with its soap opera, onto the floor,
when I stopped him.  Then the look
of betrayal—so uncharacteristic—
settled in his face and backlit
the azure eyes.  Taking hold of my arms
until we were locked in a struggle
like crabs dancing on the grave
of free will, he cried,  “Don’t you fear
for your immortal soul?  Aren’t you afraid?”
Finally exhausted by the manic urgency
he collapsed back into the same bed,
his wagon, taking him to the end.
Which was three days later.  Rounded up
too late from a pointless meeting, I arrived
in time only to barge past the door
of the neighbor resident, an old woman
of whom I had been mostly unaware
and heard someone—a relative—who held
a picture held between them, say,
“See?  It looks just like you.”