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My Father's Body

by Susan Nordmark


My father and I have the same body. His jutting, poky elbows, all bird bone. His hair near-colorless, like overexposed film. His last years on too much blood thinner and that stupid aspirin a day, scouring out his stomach and searing holes in his vessels. His skin pooled purple bruise like me on Tylenol. I never saw us like this when I was younger––my belly seized me much more. What I could have, what it would enact in return--we wrangled. Matter wins. Time wins. Sun wins. Age wins. Weight falls and hormones fall and people fall, and he broke his foot and the X-ray said, his armature fell, collapsed like cheap concrete. His heart works. The coronary scan said no disease––I don't deserve that! he told the cardiac guy. I smoked two packs a day for fifty-five years! Years smoked him. Shrunk him some, an imp at the end. Is the smell of an old car unburned gas and scalded oil? Charred resin from the plant that kicks and calms, that's what peeled my father's lungs. They're pretty bad, said the doc. Do you know what a hospitalist is? Someone who keeps you alive when your parts are breaking, not one but three or four. She has machines and molecules and liquids and gases to keep restarting each part when it stops, until they don’t––the molecules and gases don't, the parts don't. Then you die. This will happen to me too, sure as it happened to him, not quite the same, but I will look the same. Same hair thinned––maybe at eighty-nine I too will have little of it––same skinny wrists pointing, same thighs lax, same buttocks flapping, same skin pale from a life in books, same voice demanding and defining and insisting and flirting and smarting off. Even our noses are the same, only his twice as large. King of Norway! he said, and we bought the good kind, the expensive sardines with the royal profile on the label. Cold water fish is good for you, my father's five health letters said. Our ancestors must have lived hundreds of years. A long time. I hope to live a long time, in our body, my lungs, his immune cells, my skin, his gut, our heart, our green eyes.



Susan Nordmark's stories, essays and poetry have appeared in Sin Fronteras: Writers Without Borders, Entropy, Roar Feminist, Peacock Journal, Draft: The Journal of Process, Porter Gulch Review, and elsewhere. 

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