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By Aaron Baker
My father, deep in malarial fever, keeps floating away
on his bed.
Damp rag in my fist. Knot in my neck.
Night beyond the curtains is gathering silence.
My father's slick face twists, as if in deep concentration
on a single idea.
Sick light of a lantern, stink of vomit and sweat.
My mother keeps putting her hands on my shoulders.
My father sits up, I hand him the bucket.
When he's done with it, I give him water.
"Put your hands on me," he asks, so we do it.
My mother folds her hands in his. Mine go palm-down
on his chest.
Deep breaths in the stillness.
He flutters hie eyelids.
I intone, as he's taught me,
a request for God's mercy if it's His will to give it,
for His strength if it's not.
My father's whole body trembles.
His life rises again and again in my hands.