Blinds tilt to shade the South Florida sun. A high hum fills the air, and I spot his smile again, brief and rare, brown eyes grinning, cold beer can wrapped—even now—in his hand. Pipe smoke swirls the living room, tobacco leaves litter his olive green chair . . . Papa, what did you love? I loved to meet with the guys at the Legions hall. Swap aches and pains for memories of drills and routine. What did you love? Driving you to the beach, stopping for cherry snow cones on the way home, sticky kisses puffed in the rearview mirror. What were you thinking, always silent in your chair? I was thinking of my days at sea, how both waves and guns smashed against the ship. Lonely metal bunks. Of my mother. How she reached across the stove, how her sleeve caught fire. How I couldn’t put out her screams. What will you miss? I’ll miss the taste of strawberries pulled through my pipe, tapping leaves into its firm brown bowl. What will you miss, Papa? The house, warm with December days and all of you. Never telling my sons I loved them.
High Rises and Pigeon Parks
— after Douglas Goetsch
You city poets deem you’ve got it, speeding
the freeway between Chicago and Boston
so it flashes past picket fences, blind
eyes behind newspaper clichés, call it vibrant
—and now you pen a poem from grit, push past
sirens crying through high-rises, pigeon parks.
But we are made of sunsets we can hold
long after the light has left, where darkness
shrugs close and kind around our shoulders.
Birch and poplar bend to whisper their secrets,
daisies, four o’clocks gild summertime,
fireflies the only flickering neon.
Solitude stolen by a cardinal in frost,
warming the window.