Father, you come to me in spring,
in fragments where I hear you sing
Caruso, lying proudly in the tub,
soaping, scrubbing, crooning rub-
a-dub, and I burst in. You laugh.
You always laugh with me. We’re half
a cake when we’re apart. You leave
for keeps when I am ten. I grieve
because I’ll never know you in
our flat again. We almost win.
In secret night you come one year
and leave at dawn. You disappear
through the boiler room. The Drive
is windy, cold, but you’re alive
and I’m in heaven. Mom is glad
It’s almost as if we have dad
again. But you go far, and then
we write and call and meet again.
For one whole summer I’m with you.
We’re at the Graystone. You are blue
at first. You’ve lost your business and
we sell what’s left––soft Swiss watchband
straps for GPs, some rings, a pearl,
two sapphires. Then you unfurl
a velvet cloth with diamonds small
as warts. Just chips. A chintzy haul
even for thieves to live on but
we have a blast. Before you shut
the door one morning you declare
“This is the day I will repair
our poverty!” You make a grand,
buying and selling diamonds hand
to hand. Religious faith in stone
shines on your face and we atone
in Coney Island where the sub-
way drops us for some fun and grub.
By summer’s end your soul is fresh,
we’re brown and happy, and the flesh
is ready for our winter flight.
You’ll wander far through western light
in a white Buick convertible,
and I’ll tap inner light in school,
which is what Quakers specialize
in when they shake and close their eyes
to silent mind. When school is done
I grab the train. It’s spring. We’re one
in love. You tease, warn me, “Stand straight
and you can face the world.” I hate
hello-goodbyes but never dream
they too can end. We are a team,
a gang of two, and so we blow
across the Rockies. Mexico
in just a week. I’ve turned fifteen
and learn to kiss. A skinny bean
of a kid. Everything we do
is hot. A double date, just you,
me, and the Franco sisters sail
through the Distrito Federal.
Back seat. With young Marti I neck.
My first kiss. In this huge Aztec
square of the Zócalo begins
the alcohol of sex. Wild winds.
Marti sews a red guitar on
a hanky for me. I leave at dawn
for school. In my high Pullman berth
I lose her gift but not the birth
of voyaging from lip to lip,
pausing to board another ship.
Next year in Colorado Springs
my date’s your wife, your wings
are high. Business in Mexico
is good and keeps you on the go.
Years skip. I am mostly alone,
but I’m a nut who loves you on
the phone or golf course where you let
me caddy. God I must forget.
He’s never there. You are a match
for him and not a bore. I catch
your weaknesses. So what? I’m sick
of perfect people. Heretic
or angel, nothing in between
is what I find. But I come clean
and start to worry. Things are bad
again. Too much. I know you’re sad.
You climb, you fall. Exciting ways
but uncontrolled. Now college days,
I always call. Krauts, Japs and war.
We stick tight no matter how far
our map may be. New York. I come
down weekends when you’re back with some
free hours. I bring you three Van Gogh
prints. We drink beer. Those spring days throw
me in a crazy mood. The best
for us. You’re broke again. The west
put silver in your hands and took
it back. You rushed it. Now I look
at you with sorrow as we talk
all night, bed to bed and I balk
at your despair. “You’ll always win
and come into your own, even
if it takes a year We shall meet
next week. Even if we hit the street
together, we will overcome.”
Night call to Maine. “Come now. Please come,”
you say.” “Exams tomorrow. Day
after, I’m there with you.” (My way
seems crazy now.) “My term
is over.” I am a bit firm,
surprising me, “Goodbye,” I hear.
At dawn I call. You disappear
ten days. I’m in the blue-walled dorm
where Hawthorne lived. A sudden storm
explodes outside. It’s nothing. Soon
over, and I am on the phone.
Dad! Exulted. No. It’s his aid.
“Your dad flew to Mexico, tried
to borrow money. Failed, and failed
with Marti too. She bailed. Derailed
he flew away. A Denver bank
also turned him down.” So you sank
and climbed steps in full morning
to the top of Sterling Building
in Colorado Springs, and fold
your coat neatly, hat on top. Gold
glasses by hat. These you leave for
us. If kids screamed in street before
your move, could their danger have stopped
your plunge to peace. Just my droplet
of make believe. You leaped from roof
down seven floors. The spring gave proof
again of its great force. In May,
in lovely May, you died. That day
saw you float terrible with grief
I’ll never know. There’s no relief
for me, which is good. It keeps
you close. Constantly your dive leaps
into my sleep, and in my bed
is where you live. I dream. Your head
appears. We’re swimming in the Sea
of Galilee. It’s nice to be
out in the middle. You frog kick
beside me as we chat. “We’ll lick
this silly problem of your death,”
I say. You smile. In the same breath,
I hear Caruso. What a dog,
horsing around with light! I jog
to shore. Soon it’s Tibet, Shanghai,
exotic safe. I ask you why
you haven’t changed. “The soul does not
lose light.” I hope you’re right. But what
you are in me (and I am blank)
is you. You’re with me now. I thank
these sixty years of no escape.
At times I sob but mostly gape.
The foolishness of life now let’s
me joke. I like to laugh. My bets
are you’ll outlast me. What can I do?”
I’ve had a sad time without you.
I have an awful voice. I can’t sing.
Caruso, sing for me next spring.