Antonia Allowatt


The day my father died I sat up in his chair, three sleepless nights
my palm pulsing from trying to hold onto his heart thum pum
pummel and pound the head-splitting milliseconds
caving in on its own beat.
I’d found him kneeling, grasping at folds in the living room couch
his quizzical eyes full of shame to be found dying, gasping
blood leaking out the collapsed straw of an animal valve
that would not embrace the human vein
and like the boy who stuck his thumb in that leaking wall of dike
I held my hand on his chest, phoning 911, riding the screaming ambulance
even in that hospital prep room, trying to stay the flood
rushing in from that other world. His heart stuttering staccato
words sentences letters-unwritten, unsaid, finally understood.
He never made it into surgery but slipped away in a quiet storm
a July sunshower that surprises with it sudden yet irrefutable
resolution. A week later I would turn fifty to his seventy-eight

making me his Saturn Return child. In his Easy Boy chair
family pictures, official papers, navy newsletters strewn
across the floor as if they could invoke a ghost
to levitate the shroud between us
and in the bleak night of sleeplessness, the silence
wept and wept, the walls dripping paint, the ceiling shaking loose
its plaster, tears gushing down the stairs from the room
where he did not lay beside my mother, the viscous quiescence
weeping weeping weeping... until one year later during
the sweating prayer of a dance class, I am diving into the centrifugal
chaos, thum pum pummel and pound, strum and fret, fret and thrum
bass drum and guitar all weeping, weeping, weeping... sending my hand
to try again to hold the beat of a dying man’s heart inside my chest
and in the chaotic flight through molecular breakdowns, cellular revisions
reliving a life bombinate its last question, shame and sadness
finally finally draining in fits and gyrations from sinew and ganglia.
Later in the closing circle, Jewel tells us Ben’s father passed earlier in the day
and I wondered whether he who danced so religiously here week after week
wasn’t sending a teeth-gnashing heart thudding low moan of disbelief
through Bob’s conga, Steve’s bass and Lane’s guitar
making an empathetic network of rhythm waves
connecting us all in this lively dance that always
eventually leads to that death rattling dirge
redeeming, redeeming the thum pum pummel and pound.

Antonia Allawatt is an Ina Colbrith award winner (2001, third prize) and an Artist Embassy Dancing Poetry Award winner (First Prize and two Third Prizes, 2000) and Poetry Slam winner (2000). She co-produces the Center of the Universe, a monthly performance poetry event in Sonoma California that offers poets a chance to recite their lines, accompanied by base virtuoso, Steve Shain, who has worked with Tom Watts and Ruth Wise. Antonia is also a self-help author and massage therapist who feels good poetry is like a good massage. They both gotta flow and apply just the right amount of pressure.


Poetrybay seeks fine poetry, reviews, commentary and essays without restriction in form or content, and reserves first electronic copyright to all work published. All rights to published work revert to the author following publication. All Email submissions should be in body of email text.

To submit poems write to:

PO Box 114 
Northport NY 11768
or email us at

send comments to

first electronic copyright 2004 poetrybay. 
all rights revert to authors

website comments to