Listening RoomThe Poet Speaks




Took him 28 years
to pick up
that pack of cigarettes.

One night my father re-appears
in a phlegmy voice
from Sunny Farms in California.

When I arrive, he’s on the porch,
his fingers
in a plastic cup of juice.

Working white restraints around his chest,
my mummy of Houdini
whispers, Guess your momma bit the dust.

He shows a box of photographs.
Lookee here.
There’s Fairbanks, Heston, Gable, Leigh.

He says he worked a hundred flicks,
played bits and walk ons,
marched for Caesar, fought Napoleon.

You haven’t changed a bit, he says.
I was eleven when he left.
You musta seen me ride beside the Duke.

In swirls of dust, a thousand steer
stream across vermillion sky
while cowboys disappear.

My father wipes the drool into his cup,
A loner’s like a tumbleweed,
he breaks off, blows away, dries up.

Poet’s Commentary:

“This is another father poem and it’s written based on a story that I overheard on an airplane going across the country.”

*Reproduced with the permission of Jack Coulehan and The American Medical Association: Journal of the American Medical Association, June 17, 1992, 267(2): 3202, Copyright 1992; and with special permission of Nightshade Press: First Photographs of Heaven, 1994.

Recommended Reads