When my father had only a handful of months left in him, with the cancer on his kidney scattered through his arteries like swallows swooping at sunset, he braved the long ride to the next city for a family feast. My sister had gathered siblings and cousins from the corners of the country, then lovingly triangled the egg-salad canapés and filled tea kegs with orange pekoe. She wanted Dad to have a final fellowship with his brothers and grandkids before he was too weary to make the trip, before it was too late altogether.
I could not handle the idle chatter from relatives who didn’t know who I was until I introduced myself. I felt like I was coming apart inside, but I held it together to be happy for him, a man who always loved large. I wanted to slip away and get back to the house with my brother and my sister and her kids, our small and close-knit clan, so we could have him to ourselves. I seldom came to such things, but it was not for me today that I was here. I understood I was just angry he would be taken away. I could not imagine a world without him and it seemed to me most here today were already living in that place.
When we landed afterwards, the nephews and brother swiped a few bottles of wine from the pantry and headed to the fields at the back of the farm to build a bonfire, beckoning me to follow. Night was falling, and our father was overcome with fatigue. I never imagined him so frail. I didn’t want to picture him crawling into his room to go to bed alone with his disease. Come, Daddy, I said. The boys are building a fire.
I’m tired, he said, his face a shadow. I don’t think I can come out.
Yes, I said, I know, Daddy. Just for a minute. He was so small under my arm and we walked outside so slowly. The night rising over the orchards was endless and dark, and smelled faintly of rotting apples and burning marshmallows. The moon was close enough to touch. It caught in his throat and he tilted his face to the stars in awe. The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork, Daddy said without saying anything. I could hear him in his mind, quoting from the Psalms.
As we got closer, we saw that the bonfire was massive. It towered over the trees and lit up the orchards in a festival of neon licks. Dad joked about what he would say if the fire trucks came. My brother poured wine into paper cups and passed it around. My siblings came closer and we all held onto our father, held him up. We stood in a circle around the fire. We were acutely aware that this was our patriarch’s last bonfire. It’s so beautiful, he said, finally, after a long silence. The oldest nephew, ruddy and rugged, planted like a tree trunk in his massive work boots and overalls, didn’t turn away when his face flickered in the fire from his tears. His grandfather had long taught us that a man should cry when he had good reason to. All of us, then, turned to rivers. We sipped our wine. It felt like communion. We watched the night go up in flames.
is from Toronto, Canada and writes prose poetry, flash, and other forms of little stories. Her work has been widely published in literary journals and anthologies, including Gyroscope, Free Flash Fiction, Bright Flash, Club Plum, Red Eft, and Indelible, among others. Her story The Neon Raven won first place in a writing challenge at MacQueen’s Quinterly, and her work has been nominated multiple times for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Her most recent of six collections of prose poems are Pretty Time Machine (2020) and Winter in June (2021). Some of her works have been translated into Urdu.
Lorette is founder and editor of The Ekphrastic Review (established 2015), a journal devoted to writing inspired by art. She is also an award-winning visual artist, with collectors in 30 countries from Estonia to Qatar. Visit her at: www.mixedupmedia.ca
Two Must-Read Books by The Queen of Ekphrasis, commentary in
MacQ-9 (August 2021) by Clare MacQueen, with links to additional resources
Featured Author: Lorette C. Luzajic at Blue Heron Review,
with two of her prose poems (“Disappoint” and “The Piano Man”);
plus “Poet as Pilgrim,” a review of Pretty Time Machine by Mary
McCarthy (March 2020)
Fresh Strawberries, an ekphrastic prose poem in KYSO Flash
(Issue 11, Spring 2019), nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize