Lines across the bursting purple-red sun
as it dips into the water outside
my parents’ window frames.
Dad and I are watching NCIS on mute.
The elder doctor has a heart attack
on a beach as headquarters is bombed.
We’ve seen this. The terrorist is found.
I listen to my father breathe, tense:
All thoughts in my right ear. He wheezes
with each inhale, holds his glass by the stem.
I flex my feet before the screen.
It is as if we have turned into pines.
Sometimes he repeats conversations.
Healthcare’s over, nobody has a job.
Damn dog swam around the fence again,
ate the neighbors’ Japanese bush
cost four hundred dollars.
Let’s see who’s winning Ryder.
Tiger well of course all those hussies
but a real golfer all the same.
You hungry yet, something to eat?
Four windows show the last pinks crushed
between the far bank and the blackening sky.
In the shallows of the lake
petrified trees reach stiffly out from the water.
The surface has begun to heave.
Loud fast wind shakes
the air like panic. My father looks at me.
So are you ever going to get married?
Or is that not in your plan.
In the future, maybe. He rolls his eyes
up at the ceiling, he pats my arm gently
with the hand around my shoulder.
I wish you had a couple of kids,
he’d said on our last car trip.
Before it had always been:
Get married when you can’t not get married.
We had driven to my brother’s for Thanksgiving,
the first holiday we all knew he desired men.
By six Dad snores in his room. I watch an NCIS
marathon: a young lieutenant is shot in her forehead
on a quiet roof, another woman replaces her.
She kills the terrorist, her own twin, to prove
she is worth the trust of the squad. I drop my head
on my folded knees. The TV’s still on mute
so I hear the keys in the door as they come in,
laughing. How was he, my brother asks.
I rub my face on my pants and call, Okay,
as he and my mother set bags down.
We walk into the kitchen and start opening
takeout cartons. The clean smell of white rice
and oil. Things are so much harder,
I just wish he wasn’t, Dad had murmured.
I’d said it was OK to feel that way.
In the kitchen they hand me a plate, uncork
wine. I shake my head and we sigh loudly
at the trash’s empty bottles.
We eat too much kung pao and groan
in fullness. When we all hug goodnight
my stomach is hard as a bullet.