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[1], 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.[2]

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.[3]

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.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Girard-Perregaux is a fine watch made in La Chaux de-Fonds, Switzerland, at a firm going back to 1791. was for decades a leading wholesale importer in the U. S. A.

[2] Mexico City.

[3] From 1946 to 2016. Age 18 to 88.