Marriage came to my father in the flip of a coin,
the swig of a bottle too many.
His father felt the bile rising, wheels
screeching, life coming to a halt.
Grandfather now lives in a wheelchair,
and only saw his children again last week.
They took him out to a restaurant,
fearing the worst of a lonely death.
The ancient mariner was a changed man.
In his prime he had grasped at straws of
axes, beak aimed at the dirty vermin --
as he called them, "the chao gin-nah."
For years the smell he emitted was confined
to the hospice, the bedpan, browning sheets.
The nurses endured his seedless leers,
as his daughters did his misdirected lust --
of life? Ten children round the dining table
assauge their betrayal with delicate chatter.
Old Saturn's ways seem imperishably frail.
Knowing so, I gird my loins and keep temperate --
Yet sometimes fury runs like a glass-cut skein
over a spindle, goading like a shared vein in a twin.
My needle-and-prick, patch-and-bolt heritage --
My father in terror of Eumenides, of committing patricide.
The sameness of history, allows me to see
A bride tipping herself out of the car
like a deus ex machina from the sky.
She was an unwitting lute,
to wager war on Kronos.
A woman to avert fate in the family.
A soon-cooled finger in a dam of cracks.
What did my father really see in the ceremonies --
the miserly gaiety of an unhappy family --
a young man's duty to cheat paternal atrophy,
a way to give life to death?
(She could have been a spoke in the wheel,
but she became a closing to the circle.)
Grandfather eats into everything
my father was to do later.
Note: Chinese families believed that a marriage could avert disasters such as a death in the family.