Requiem for the New Year

On this first dark day of the year
      my daddy was born lo
these eighty-six years ago who now
      has not drawn breath or held
bodily mass for some ten years and still   
      I have not got used to it.
My mind can still form to that chair him   
      whom no chair holds.
Each year on this night on the brink
      of new circumference I stand and gaze
towards him, while roads careen with drunks,   
      and my dad who drank himself
away cannot be found. Daddy, I’m halfway   
      to death myself. The millenium
hurtles towards me, and the boy I bore   
      who bears your fire in his limbs
follows in my wake. Why can you not be   
      reborn all tall to me? If I raise my arms
here in the blind dark, why can you not   
      reach down now to hoist me up?
This heavy carcass I derive from yours is   
      tutelage of love, and yet each year
though older another notch I still cannot stand   
      to reach you, or to emigrate
from the monolithic shadow you left.

Mary Karr, “Requiem for the New Year” from Viper Rum. Copyright © 1998 by Mary Karr. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.
Source: Viper Rum (New Directions, 1998)
More Poems by Mary Karr