I sit at his side with my copy of Joyce’s Ulysses.
The IV drips into my father’s arm, his body
ravaged by glucose, sweet and seductive
as the Sirens’ songs.

I read Ulysses because it is long
and dense and oh so revered.
As I ponder Bloom’s kidneys
and Molly’s tryst I dare anyone,
even Death, to break
my interpretive stride.

I read this book as one step on the road
to high culture. Where Dedalus himself
feared he would always be a shy table guest.

I read this book as an emblem of what
separates me from my father.
The toll collector.
Who never read Homer.
Who never went to college.

I read this book as a jolt to memory.
Dad checking out armfuls of library books.
Our pondering O Henry’s stories.
Our deciphering Shakespeare’s sonnets.
Dad polishing that part of me
that only he could understand.

Our bond is weighty and complex
as the novel I nervously finger on my lap.
Even as I’ve been told I could make a different life
one with more learning and more security
and the letters Ph.D. after my name.
But with paths as complicated as the chapters
I now put to rest because the doctor

has entered the room. He examines
patient and chart. I sit trying to find
the right pose, the right expression.
Finally, the doctor speaks:
With a little rest and care, he will be all right.