Happy birthday, Dad (10/22/05)

My dad Peretz, who died last year the day after Bush’s election, would have been 89 today.

Here’s the poem I wrote this January:

THREE FOR THE ROSES

1.

Dad, after I voted, I stayed up
all night listening to returns, hoping
Kerry had garnered enough votes in Ohio.
I was eating breakfast at Gillies
reading the paper when Mom called before eight
and I knew the news before I answered:
it was too early for her to be up.

The next day, when we reached home
Carol said it had been a horrible day, first Kerry
and now you, and I joked
that at the end you had just been to tired to move to Canada.
She found three pink perfect roses you had planted in the yard,
brought them inside.  One for each of us, she said.

2.

Today in the paper, Monty Leitch wrote about
how her father’s recent death haunts her
in the Jack O’Lanterns rotting in the garden,
in her first-time fear of the leafless winter woods.

Yours haunts me on the internet.
I found an engraved ivory pistol stock entitled full-blown rose.
You had stopped eating when you asked for a gun,
then asked me why I looked so sad.

Your last real words were how you had been a happy man,
that you had two daughters who had brought you joy,
that you wanted to see your father who had died when you were five. Carol’s dog, Otto, jumped up on the bed and then a cricket. I told you all the things you had given me:
walks in the woods, a green thumb, a series of perfect books.
You lived another eleven days, your once strong body
good only for lingering on.

At your funeral, Carol talked about those roses.
I talked about how you would have
loved the clear sky.  Of  the things you had given me:
walks in the woods, a green thumb, a series of perfect books.

3.

I found it on the kitchen table in a stack
with other mail from the past two years.
This past Father’s Day,
your forgetful daughter had lost the card
purchased months earlier,
flipped instead, as through a tarot deck,
the stack of handmade
ones I’d clipped and glued on heavy stock,
fronts all recycled from the endless supply
which charities send out.

I selected a full blown pink rose
and inscribed a note on how
it reminded me of your gardens.
Days after your funeral
before the first hard frost
I walked out in the cold dark and
bent double the lanky stems to cut
another two pink buds at the five-leaved joints
like you taught me.

The next day Carol found two more
red ones in the front yard,
distorted by the fading light but still fragrant.
When we left to return to our own homes
they were full blown in Momma’s kitchen window.

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