“Flagpole” published in Waypoints 2015

Flagpole

Today I touched my father’s tombstone

with the flat of my hand, as if he were merely

feverish and not dead, not underground

here in the Sequatchie River Valley.

 

I picture him back home at the kitchen table,

trying to hear a Benny Goodman record

through thick headphones, leaning forward,

nursing a Stroh’s and a travel magazine

 

or standing at the stove, stirring a saucepan,

heating up new maple butter to pour out

on the snow in pretzel-shaped candy,

a Lucky Strike dangling from his lips.

 

I picture him stumbling down the stairs

drunk, cursing in sign language, mean,

smashing things at the workbench,

breaking windows with his hammer.

I see him throwing his keys at my mother’s apron,

firing off a rifle, pocking the fridge. I see

his head in the back of a disappearing squad car

as my mother clings to the doorframe…

 

For years there was small news of him:

the clocks he fixed, a new wife, an address

somewhere in California. Then the checks arrived,

federal, the death benefit received.

 

Now I am sixty. Odd, how blood is thicker

than memory. After months of searching, I find him.

I come to this field to hear the summer scrum

of a mower in the distance, to brush the cuttings away.

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