Saturday, February 15, 2014

The first time

He can barely get out of the car. 
He has to cup the rim of the door with both hands 
and pull himself to his feet, taking sucking breaths,
mewling, all bones bundled in fleece, an old ram, unsure, 
stumbling and sinking. 
He hates this stage of life, its shame, its servility, so 
I do not offer my arm.
We have not spoken in years and now he is not himself, 
and when I open the restaurant door, 
he stops at the first chair, collapses into it
as if just pulled from a plane wreck.
The man with no liver orders beer. 
I say nothing.
He used to make his own in the basement. 
One New Year's my mother threw bottles, some landed
on his head, because he was too drunk to go to the party. 
Under layers of wool, his head seems small, 
it dangles over the menu, membranes shrunken
like a raisin, juiceless and fluted. Then something 
I say charms him and his body quales with delight 
and then he winks, You're ok, kid. 
It is the first time he ever lets on that he likes me.
Unless that's not what he meant, in which case 
he has never let on. 


 My mother’s motor is always racing. 
Get going! Hurry up! She's a blitz.  
But I keep staring at the wet pavement,
I am counting cracks and maple bark
soaking in their sweet sweat, I'm far inside
the humming world
and before I know it I’m flat in the street,
a motorcycle wheel spinning on my back 
on Columbus Avenue, the driver 
kneeling and praying beside my head.
I'd run too fast across the street--
hadn't dared to keep my mother waiting.
And now I hurry her along. 
Time to go! Let's not be late! 
Now the widow stands on her one good leg, 
chain-smoking on the porch, 
coat on, doors locked, impatient for this ride.
I fold her walker, hear her grunting, hear the lowering
of her crippled self into my car, hear the nervous 
hurried motion from not wanting to keep me waiting. 
I could have touched her with my palm
I could have have said, Please take your time.