–for my mother
had left the party but the music was still throbbing
away from me
had my blouse half undone–
that’s the light
smelling of alcohol
dangerous with its promise of brilliant regret
heavily clothed into the water
for lifesaving practice
and the water
reflections subdividing like amoebas–
that’s the distance
my arm’s length
resonant with resistance
on Trinidad Head
alone on black wet rock
by the sudden
of ocean too close–
that’s the texture
where anything to grab onto
even if it tears your flesh like a cat’s claw
This poem, which I wrote about my father, was published in The North American Review (Vol. 281, No. 3, May/June 1996).
The Discomfort of Reincarnation
If you stare long enough at rain
I do not love information.
What I like to believe
is that at the last he was able
to lie down comfortably with no thoughts.
Not even the memory of our last time outdoors together
—his wheelchair parked at the edge of a kidney-shaped lagoon,
he and I nearly covered with ducks, geese and pigeons
grabbing fresh bread in whole slices and reaching for more.
December in Arizona and I was in shorts,
thrilled at the soft warm breasts of the geese
as they pushed against my legs.
He laughed in scattered short syllables that might
have been words.
I cry at the memory of my own complex laughter,
a fact I don’t care to examine.
He could be one of those selfish birds.
This poem was published in Denver Quarterly (Vol. 29, No. 01, Summer 1994).
My Father at Ninety
sees with a permanent
sort of déjà vu.
We ate here yesterday,
he growls, or,
you already carried that box in here.
The fool as always,
I continue to bring in the box
containing a book he has already read.
Remembering the future
as readily as the past,
he perches, mantislike,
on the fragile leaves of now.
In case time is linear,
the fool plants flowers.
Fools will, he says.
This poem was published in The Antioch Review (Vol. 51, 1993).
First Poem About My Father
What about his shirts, then.
He wore white ones, I think, to work
every evening after early dinner.
In home movies of him pitching
a military green canvas tent
beside a transparent stream in Banff or Jasper,
he’s wearing plaid with lots of red.
That tent, folded, filled a giant duffel bag
and couldn’t be lifted by a child.
The poles were massive, rigid,
in pieces that scraped at the joints
when they got dirt in them.
It’s the American school of architecture:
forget bending with the storm like a willow.
If it crumbles or cracks in an earthquake,
build it bigger and thicker next time;
if your first child disappoints you,
don’t let the second or third one get too close.