JH: For me, the best, most engaging part of this poet’s obit is the “prayer.” What do you pray for, if at all, and how?
FF: Here is my earnest prayer:
Unholy Father, your life echoes and re-echoes in the cave that I’ve hollowed out. So close to your death, so close to my ground, I feel feverish still and fertile also: from your departure springs my solitude and a new life. As a writer, a solitary shapeshifter, I pick a wordish gestalt for this new life. Whatever I build with my own hands, your hands guide me. Whichever image I hold in my heart is underlaid with your image. You were a Joycean ‘fellow of the right kidney’, and I’m what’s left of you. (I stop, breathing hard now.)
This obituary, in which I allowed myself literary liberties that my father, himself a writer, would have, I am sure, most fervently approved of, is a prayful encounter with him and with myself. A pleading, an expression of intense yearning full of ambivalence: “Pray, let me be like you” and: “Pray, don’t make me be like you.” When I look around me, I can already see the shadow of my invocation in my own child’s eyes.
Where all this will lead, if prayer is meaningful beyond the moment of imploration, I do not know. My prayer goes up the chimney like thin, curly smoke, mixing with your own prayer, tempting providence, up all the way to the wobbling stars.