My father is in his last hours
and I stand beside the statue I don’t want
to pull down, have my photo
taken. To take a photo. Or its past
participle. I am thinking of students
who almost worship the poet,
and I am thinking of the missing
arm of this ‘Hellenic’ Hölderlin,
which I learn held a laurel
before it was damaged, stolen.
‘Vandalised’. This happened
in the nineteenth as well as
the twentieth century. All
that protrudes from the right
shoulder is a tarnished metal pin.
In Perth, my father has stopped
wanting to live. Last night he had another
stroke. He is in the private anguish
of dying and wants it to remain private. Ergo,
I wouldn’t presume to talk about light,
and he wouldn’t want to hear.
He never worshipped the old gods
of Greece, and never wanted
to climb Mount Parnassus.
He was the top apprentice
mechanic in Western Australia
each year of his apprenticeship.
He went to a minuscule bush school.
He lived with his mum, dad and sister
at Gleneagle where each was the other’s
lightning rod. Jarrah trees were monuments.
He wouldn’t have vandalised a statue
even if it made no sense to him.
Personally, I don’t care what happens
to a statue of an explorer
or aristocrat, but I see the statue
of such a poet differently. I am
comfortable having my photo
taken alongside it. But it’s mounted
in the old botanical gardens where trees
were sampled and cultivated from around
the world. The collectors have gone, many trees
remain. The oldest tree is native
to the region – a 250-year-old
beech tree. Its roots are uneasy.
It’s not far from the God-like
statue of or to Hölderlin, who suffered
so much in his life and was no god.
He felt pain gods just can’t feel.
My father’s body is breaking down.
And as he wants to leave life,
it’s not his will that’s broken –
in fact, I am sure that it’s thriving,
like the reach of the statue’s
missing limb, the laurel already
bestowed upon us all,
whatever our failings,
whatever we’ve cherished.