My father stumbles down Avenue A
home again with his bourbon, crushed poinsettias,
all he couldn't hold,
to disappear into a plate of kielbase
or kidney stew, then argue
with the woman waiting to blame him.
Then the broken eggs,
crying over dessert, the doors
quietly closing: nightly sounds
with no one to interrupt.
Cut from barfights, confused in the mornings,
at the table, he looked out
at the old peach trees,
his cigarette now lit. The pacing began,
that way he woke up taking the smoke in,
ready for a Saturday of goodness
then sitting at the front
window, crosswording, jumbling,
the room covered with almanacs,
dictionaries, all open.
If I want to remember why I left that city
I think it was darkness, hardly any parks,
loving the truth as I drove down
our street lined with cars, when he told me
I was going to be like him,
that I was already him, drinking, smoking,
and liking it, running around Bayonne
at midnight with no one.
He with his swollen welder's hands
that shook, who left in the middle of countless
Christmas dinners in order to get through them,
sat with me in his pontiac,
the only new car he ever earned,
and tried to teach me
when I turned corners to let it slip out
like a boat on Newark Bay. All I felt
were the fins that frightened me
and a wake I left trailing through those narrow streets.