Now That Dad Is Gone
She was her usual self at supper, “Pass…”
we’d say. “Heavens,” she might answer, or
“I think I’ll lie down before our game.”
My brother did the dishes, I got the board
out, found some dice, then we took our walk
around the block till she changed her clothes.
I remember my brother saying the smoother the surface,
the less friction between things, which quickly led to
times she would help us with our algebra, Suppose
the boy is pulling the boat with a force of 10 lbs.,
Suppose we can draw two lines at right angles, starting
from the point the boat started… Henry laughed before
I could. Do you think it’s Alzheimer’s? I realize she’s
getting up there, but she still calls Henry by my name,
the way she always has. I doubt she has other visions,
nothing in her is enigmatical. She’s glutted with life.
Yes, but who is she? Henry stops, Who is she? His cry
goes down the street, lit by evergreens. And the gate
is open when we return. She’s there, leaning in the door.
I was sleeping so soundly, she says, But then I just
woke up, just like that. I wanted to be with my sons.
The Right Question
Thanks, he said, and struck us all down.
There were four of us, we’d been his children
but that was the first we’d been together in
some time. It was Christmas, but still warm.
If you open the door, you’ll see we’re in
a large bare room. Now bring them to me,
I recall he said last night. Hung on to us,
insisted we kiss him. Lavinia hugged him back,
but probably not very hard. Niobe leaned forward,
Max spit in his face and I must have done it too,
but I forget what I did. He didn’t exactly vanish
because there he was in the morning, the nurse
delicately feeding him. He pushed her back, came
at us again. Lavinia was the first to sense what
he wanted, managed to whisper down the line, just
before he got to us. And we all said it together,
How do you feel, pop, we love you, you look so tired.
A small thing can start one,
like remembering you forgot
to apologize one last time.
You looked over your shoulder,
as if a stampede were coming.
Nothing, just little white
houses with a nice neighborhood
grocery stitched between them, so
far so good. But this outline
calls for reservation: in life
as in streets we have blind
spots in our field of vision,
like the woman in the car
directly behind you, cranking
down the window, about to
cry, How dare you, how dare…
You stop the car, get out slowly,
look her in the mouth, How dare I
what? You’re in your nightshirt,
you notice now. As she blows the
thick dust away, looks at you like
a great physician, the universe
seems blindingly finite. I’d
like an account of your life
since birth, including everything
you’ve ever said, your mother says.
Van Gogh’s Cyclist
Someone else painted it, come to think!
But if he had, the boy would make it to
a tall house on a hump of ground, be safe
in a little bed in the corner, the bicycle
leaning against a shed, a sort of sexual
object, waiting for the drawbridge to
settle back over the lazy creek. It’d be
way past dark now, the boy’s asleep,
feeling just a slight ache from the past
while the lamp from a boat flickers away
and the bicycle wakes up.