|UP TO YOU
It's up to you,
emerge later on
now that you walk straight
to first grade every nine a.m.,
line up in the playground,
sit down to learn the sounds of vowels,
to understand that things add up,
that things can be taken away,
to face hallway bullies,
rules of the library,
only to strap on your backpack at three,
tuck your chin to spite the headwind
and beat the bus home;
yes it's up to you,
now that a gale-blown starling
lies dazed in our window box,
not remembering her course for the leafless maple,
not remembering her perch on the wire,
to disinter your sewn cardinal
buried in your closet,
seam unraveling at one wing,
to show it full on your side of the window,
thrust it high to make it soar,
make it dip
because it's you
who must remind the starling
how to fly.
THE TWILIGHT LEAGUE
to my father
Sonny Thomas lashes a rope to left-center,
looks up rounding second,
coasts into third. He could run forever
if he only had the room.
The spitfire Proctor twins,
one at short, one at second,
turn a sure one-out single
into a slam-bang double play.
It's Valco versus Hamilton Standard,
the summer of '60 in dusty Colt Park,
a battle for first in the Twilight League.
At the end of seven
it's too late to play the nine,
so we climb into the Biscayne,
head home to have a catch out back.
I take my spot, worn through to bare earth,
rub spit into the pocket of my Johnny Logan glove,
tug twice on the bill of my Cleveland cap.
You start me with a grounder.
I stab, whirl, fire,
watch as you retrieve it from under the porch.
You decide to try me on high flies.
Already you are fifty,
short of breath, trifocaled,
so stiff with bursitis you can barely lift your arm.
Already you sleep in a twin bed.
Still, as the falling night erases everything around us,
you hurl that ball just as high as you can
so that I can take advantage of last light.
sings in my classroom
until I tell her no -
the latest from Madonna,
each note light like a piccolo played cleanly
on a hill above a stream,
and when I pass out books to read Shakespeare aloud
she commandeers the star part
and makes Juliet sing
a Capulet cantata of whole note prithees,
quarter note wherefores,
banishèds in scat,
and with the signal of the bell
Angel whistles out the doorway,
hums her locker combination,
gives voice to the hallway on her path to the bus
that will haul her out of town,
past stockaded yards full of in-ground pools,
tiled patios, flowers,
haul her on the highway
headed to the city,
as far as her block,
where some buildings have windows,
some windows have glass,
where some stairwells have no one
fast asleep on them, where some apartment doors
aren't identified in chalk,
where some living rooms have heat,
where some fathers live at home,
where Angel, undoubtedly,
sings well into the night.
|A PLACE AT THE TABLE
to John, who died in infancy
Every Christmas for years
I've picked a spot beneath the tree
for the gift I would have given you,
another in the driveway for your car,
and at our table, a setting,
my son to your right, daughter to your left,
our mother directly across.
For years it's been my secret,
but someday, when I'm ready,
I'll stop and tell the children where I've placed you,
show Mother where you are
just as she revealed to me last Memorial Day,
standing beside me at Rose Hill,
Lot Number 8,
saying, "This is where the baby is,
our first one, John,"
pointing to her place for you that no one recognizes,
no dated stone,
no record of the breaths you took,
just a foot-square patch of well kept grass,
Grandpa Foley to the right of you,
Grandma to your left,
as if some terror in the night
had led you to seek comfort in their bed,
and Mother beside me,
brushing away a stray leaf with the rubber tip of her cane,
as though it were a crumb left on your cheek,
or a speck of dust
settled in your hair.
|NIGHTFALL, EARLY APRIL
behind her high school
beside the free-standing wall some use
for soccer practice
she lifts her slender brush.
Strawberry hair done up
to keep the paint off,
sweatshirt sleeves bunched above her elbows,
she crafts two swirling roses,
one for Jen
one for Asia.
since her friends' car failed to hold the curve,
since she sped to the site
already strewn with flowers, small bears,
a rainbow of balloons,
since she wove among those gathered,
grabbing onto anyone, everyone,
anyone at all.
she steps back to gain perspective.
as will the words that arch above them:
"In loving memory
Jen and Asia
You will always be with us
she makes her way
to her waiting car,
steps over white lines,
lands only in the empty spaces.
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