The Poisoned Ink Well

Sunday, June 20, 2004


Daddy (for your grandson)

The last time
I saw you or touched you
was in 1985
It was on my birthday.

You stood in the front yard
in your overalls
working on my car
screwdriver in your hand
red grease rag tucked in your
back pocket.
The autumn sun
winked a lazy afternoon eye
through a hickory nut tree's
lighting your face
for a moment
making you squint
and wipe your brow
with the oily rag.
You wished me Happy Birthday.
I kissed your grease-smudged face.
I cranked my car, two sputs then vroom
you smiled at the engine.
I waved to you
standing there, lonely with the pavement
and I was gone.

The last time I talked to you
was on the phone
the day before
I told you I couldn't come home.
You offered to fly me back.
I refused
I said I was busy.
I said I had to work.
I was lying to you.
The next day
at lunch
I sat crossed legged
my hair wet, in my bathrobe
on my bare wood apartment floor
eating a cold turkey sandwich
and drinking warm corona beer
without lime.
I should have been
with you.
I called the bus station
to ask about tickets
and plan my trip home for Christmas.

December 12, 1985
I made it home
for your funeral
and now you are
the center of my attention
laid out, like a conversation piece,
everyone says, you look good
to them you are a
coffee table book
open to the last page.
I walk out
to the store down the street
to buy a bottle of wine
and I can still smell your roses
two blocks away.

One week later
My mother is crying
next to me in bed
all night, she won't stop
I am on my left side, facing her
propped up on one elbow
I brush back her hair from her face with
the palm of my right hand
and my fingertips trace the lines on her forehead.
It is raining outside
for the first time
since we buried you.
Cold December
taps on the windowpane.
She is worried about you
out there, in the rain.
She wants to bring you a jacket
she thinks
you are getting wet.
I hold her tight, swaying back and forth
until she quiets.

Two years later
my first son is born,
September 1987.
I name him after you.

He is 3 months old tonight.
I wrap him like a Christmas present
in a soft blue blanket
tucking the corners around his legs
folding it, carefully,
over the back of his head.
He cries and screams
He is a colicky baby, tonight.
I cradle him and walk across the room
I sit in a rocking chair
and hold his head to my chest
rocking slowly.
I repeat your name over and over
until he falls asleep.