“My mother is a fish.”
—Vardaman Bundren, As I Lay Dying
My father was a vegetable.
The vine-grown kind, maybe, like an eggplant
that fell to the ground upon ripening.
Hit the living room carpet thump. Sack of potatoes.
The paramedics had the cooling blanket on him
before they stormed the CCU.
Iced him down like a brick of broccoli florets.
They called it induced hypothermia,
which sounded similar to the network chefs’
secret way to crisp wilted lettuce.
He was soon planted in a cardiac bed,
and his arms postured from the mattress;
mustard greens reaching for sunlight.
It was sudden cardiac death,
the neurologist explains, like a
wheat stalk sheared for the thresher.
There is no apotheosis of a vegetable beyond
its ripening. I saw my father
become a swollen tomato,
observed the Furosemide fail to pull fluid,
scrutinized the EEG burst suppression pattern;
I watched with a farmer’s grit and anguish.
My mother soon asked me to remove
his wedding band with lubricant,
and I worried it from his finger like a shelled pea.
The days mowed along like passes of the plow,
until it was clear even to my mother that he was
an overripe artichoke, bruised purple and coarse,
and the heart just too far gone.
James Swansbrough received his BA from Davidson College and MFA from The University of the South. He resides in Signal Mountain, Tennessee, with his wife and two daughters. He has taught English in Virginia and North Carolina, but currently runs a commercial HVAC/Refrigeration company, until his daughters’ unicorn-breeding business takes off.
Cagibi Issue 5