Ursa Minor

(originally posted July 30, 2013)

I could use a child’s wooden foot
stool to reach the last

days of July. Painted red
or a mustard almost

too rich to see
in summer. So much has been written

about April’s
cruelty, but it is the majestic

peak of August
I cannot bear. Such a short distance

to pitch and tuck
into a somersault

down an observatory crowned
hill toward fall. Before

the month ends,
my father will die

all over again, and life will continue
without him. No ladder will stretch

high enough into the sky
to reach all those stars we reckoned our spirits with.

Advertisements

Isometrics

Some days all I can feel is
my father’s handshake. Called a vise

grip by more than one old
beau. An addiction to finger exercises

he did while running
every morning. They kept my own

hands occupied
in the early weeks after quitting

those smokes
he hated viciously. And I still practice

them now that I have returned
to the road and to fight

back tears. No matter how many sets
I do, memories are all that’s left. And the way

they left his mind
too soon.

360

Come full circle
is not complete
without the last five

days. Can I keep
the pace of grief
steady? Sequential

dreaming is overrated. Change
the setting, change
the internal

dialogue and all the reed
instruments collected
in one long

narrow room. Corridor
songs round their notes
best without cracking them.

Monday Mornings in August

Hurt my eyes, my bones,
those muscles with memory
make themselves
known. To wake

to news
of a dimness
that has descended
from a light that has been extinguished

permanently—what is left
to fear? He cannot die
all over again,
can he? But the pain

is real. Spasms stun
me into beginning
those stages of awareness,
grief again, out of order.

July 27: 11 Months

Startled by the number 27

on my apartment door,
the nearest cross
street to an avenue

I used to live on. Where

did it factor
in your life
before it became

the day you died?

No reflexes can wake you
now, no tallies
too low, temperatures

too high. You used

to say time
was make believe,
manufactured to manage obsessions—

yours, mine, the rest

of the world’s. When light
rain placates a summer afternoon,
I wonder who

did the making and what

materials were used. You would
have known. Which mattered
most—the distance

you traveled or the moments

passed observed? You kept track
of both despite everything
because you knew

no other way to live.

He Loved a Parade

A patriotism
I did not inherit. Along Asbury
Park’s Main Street
heading toward the shore—the last one

we watched together. Tears
came to his eyes when bagpipers marched
past in their wool kilts. Their drone
pipes in near perfect harmony. Fireworks

have frightened me since dodging
M-80s in the Paris metro
on Bastille Day,
then in the New York subway

every 4th of July
for years. I could never keep step

with a group. Always got the incurable urge
to cross the street

in the midst of it all
against the flow. But now
that he’ll watch no more
parades, a single bagpipe

opening wide those first notes
to “Amazing Grace”
is a freeze
tag tap I cannot ignore.

10 Months

Another 27th day hits
the way heat slaps

my face when I leave
an air-conditioned

shell. He would have walked
in it—no matter

what. I mention an MIT cap
and ring to a young architect

who knows
the Institute well. He says

as much as it changes
it remains the same. My father

faced change,
loved the same.