It is science to see my father’s skull—
as he lies in the dim machine next door—
on a screen, faint white, vague black, a pot
of thoughts, whether broken or not, the question,

and another science to see my father’s skull,
an X-ray of the grave, the bare old bone
of everyone, jaw’s jut, the forehead’s curve,
the dark rounds that hold eyes seeing, or not.

He follows orders not to move. I barely
move myself. I shouldn’t be seeing this.
I can’t stop looking. This could be
a thousand-year-old find in a sandy cave,

the plates and fissures of our last design.,
a round home held in the hands and turned,
the singular museum of memories
gone hollow, dry in the driest air.

“Wendell, wake up,” the technician murmurs
into a microphone. He needs him awake.
The son, too, needs him awake, wanting
to see that unique familiar mask

pulled back over the general stone,
the temporary look a long time loved.
“Okay,” he murmurs back, the soft wet eyes,
which I can’t see on this machine, now opening.

(First appeared in Northeast, 2006)