"Unarcheology of 'Father'" by George Abraham

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November 29, 2022 

Unarcheology of ‘Father’

George Abraham
a Markov Sonnet, with thanks to Fargo Tbakhi

Baba, I held your hand as you were dying
Half-asleep, floating between Unknowing
And here: your gazed fixed into the greying wall.

                        *

Half-asleep, floating away from an unknowable
Here, your gaze was fixed past the wall greying
from hospital to hospice to bedroom to heaven.

                        *

Here, your gaze was fixed. Past the wall, greying
from hospital to hospice to bedroom, the heaven
of your unforgotten youth played out before us.

                        *

From hospital to hospice, from bedroom to heaven,
Your unforgettable youth played out before us: 1967,
Summer whispering in the ferns, gator dead on the mantle.

                        *

You un-forgot your youth and let it play out before
Summer whispered the ferns dead. A gator on the mantel
Meant hunting season was beginning, its heat coming still.

                        *

Summer was a whisper. Ferns, dead on the mantle. A gator
Meant hunting season was a heat you named beginning:
This is how you convinced yourself you were American. 

                        *

I wrote heat, and beginning, but meant hunting season.
This is how I know I am american: I can convince
Other men I am worthy of their roughest entries.

                        *

This is the shape of my knowing: I’m a convincing american
To other men who see, in me, a rough entry. A worthy
Hole would know when to submit, how to say daddy. 

                        *

To other men, I am a rough entry, a worthy
Hole. I know how to submit, call daddy
Undeserving men: all spittle, teeth, and thrashing.

                        *

Hole I once submitted to, Daddy where once
Was undeserving man: in all the spittle and thrashing,
He was my first love, my earliest childhood friend.

                        *

When I was spittle & thrash, I thought myself undeserving
Of him. Being in love with my earliest childhood friend
Was how my body first taught itself to swallow.

                        *

I once was in love with my earliest childhood friend.
This is how my body first learned to swallow
the impossible wound of itself: summer quieted to whisper.

                        *

I first taught my body to swallow itself
As a wound scraped quiet on an impossible summer.
Baba, it was you who held my hand as I was dying.

                        *

I quieted the impossible wound of my body,
Baba. I held your hand while you were dying,
Half-asleep. I let you float off, Unknowing.

Copyright © 2022 by George Abraham. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 29, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

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“After my father caught a rare neurodegenerative disease which dismembered his brain in six weeks, I chose not to come out to him on his deathbed. Growing up as a Palestinian in the Southern U.S., my father inherited much of his homophobia from America—the failed imaginations of love in the settler colony, which distanced him from indigenous Palestinian notions of love and care. I let my father pass unknowing, to let him die in peace, and also to reclaim agency over my own queer narrative, against the dangers and dismemberments Western queerness and toxic positivities around ‘coming out’ stories can impose on bodies like mine. This decision was, to invoke Fargo Tbakhi’s term, an “unarcheology,” which, conversely, left me with a different shape of unknowability: what if my father accepted my queerness? I only allowed him to see my queerness in fragments. I, too, only knew my father in fragments. In this way, we knew and loved each other un/knowably. I needed to find a love poem—wasn’t this the sonnet’s origin all along?—amidst such im/possible fragmentations.”
George Abraham

George Abraham

George Abraham is a Palestinian American poet and the author of Birthright (Button Poetry, 2020), winner of the Arab American Book Award. The recipient of fellowships from Kundiman, the Arab American National Museum, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and other organizations, they live in Chicago, on the unceded lands of the Council of Three Fires.

Birthright

Birthright
(Button Poetry, 2020)

“Black Parade” by Darrel Alejandro Holnes
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Thanks to Jake Skeets, author of Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers (Milkweed, 2019), who curated Poem-a-Day for this month’s weekdays. Read or listen to a Q&A about Skeets’s curatorial approach and find out more about our guest editors for the year
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