To My Daughter

Peter Cooley

When they escort you to my body they will burn,
when I am watching from that other country,
when you are weary of embellishments
death insists upon, the wilting pastels,
the embalming fluid running through my limbs
they’ll overcharge you for, then they’ll reduce the bill,
the fluid my extremities, fingers, toes, penis.

When you find only weeping is free.

Remember then how we laughed today at the Chihuahua
aged as his mistress, the tiny, dog-jawed woman,
pearls, jeweled sweater, six-inch heels,
Upper East Side, NY, 82nd & Fifth.
When she stooped to scrape his poop
he went for her, he shook his matching rhinestones,
he reveled in his snap, his yack-yack yack-yack-yack.
We had to turn away and turn away,
just departed from the Met, immortal-gorged.
I held a lamp post, weeping, laughing.

Laughter is just so much about the stars, now isn’t it?
Stars who will remember us, father, daughter,
you, mid-life, I, starting my seventh decade.

She dropped her little poop box when he snapped.

That’s how they burned my father.
They’ll take you to the corpse. You’ll have to identify that corpse.

Peter Cooley is a professor of English at Tulane University and director of its creative writing program. His tenth book, World Without Finishing, was published in 2018.
Originally published:
April 1, 2019

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