Joe Cuomo, Local Weatherman, Tests the Old Idea of Heaven
That the goldfinch yellows further for the grasses.
That the trenches in dawnlight grow a little darker.
That the day before my father’s death
was National Skinny Dipping Day, Filet
Mignon Day, and Left Hander’s Day. And the day
he made his last, accidental utterance—first a hush
like the flame going out on a stove, then a rasp
and low vowel, as if he were a radio station we’d lost
to static, winding through the mountains—
was National Creamsicle Day. So in the Somewhere
the Breyer’s Ice Cream factory calls home, the children
of Somewhere Elementary were sugared and giddy
on the day the doctor warned me that when his toes
began to curl, or when his arms began to swell
and warm, and tighten, it meant the end.
In a nearby field, the people of Lewiston, Maine
were preparing for Hot Air Balloon Day: the nylon shapes
of cartoon heroes draped across the grasses,
as if flattened by anvils and ready
to shake themselves back to standing. All night,
like television personalities in the lit squares of their windows,
the children surveyed the field where the blue lights
of the burners puffed on and off. Come morning,
before the wind picked up, anachronistic and brave
in his wicker basket, local weatherman Joe Cuomo
set out to prophecy the day, while in front of their TVs
the children hoped to get a look at heaven,
but instead got a weatherman
remarking on the elephantine weight of the clouds.
This is how it works: wonder, then loss,
then new wonder. I knew
that without me, my father would be trapped
in the wet heft of his body.
And so, untethered from the machines
standing by like awestruck spectators,
my father huffed the last heat inside him
while outside, a day early, the first
impatient balloon shoved off,
and made the blue sky bluer by its redness.