How to Remember Him
Forget the swollen knees, the limp that slowed
his pale feet across the kitchen floor to counters
and cupboards stuffed with orange pill bottles.
Do not think of his hands, stiff and folded across a still
chest. Remember the legs that carried his burly body
up ladders all day to roofs. Remember those hands
calloused from a hammer’s handle, how they
placed your small body on broad shoulders
dusted with woodchips.
Remember the acres of grass to cut,
the green John Deere you bobbed on as a boy,
chores you and your brothers will finish now.
Do not leave the porch swing to sway
alone in the wind. Sit there with your mother.
Remember how your father stood on the porch,
puffed a smoke at the day’s end.
(From the chapbook Front Man)
After Working Hours
She comes home to a husband
just as bone-tired, slow to the kitchen
for a snack before sleep.
In dreams, she sees her hair streaked gray,
her back hunched from years behind a counter.
She still hears her manager’s screeching voice
call for clean-up in aisle 9.
Her husband also dreams work sounds—
buzzsaws grinding down wood, hammers pounding nails,
the site boss bellowing, move your ass, boys!
When they wake, they speak nothing
of his blistered fingers and swollen knuckles,
her headaches caused by nagging customers.
He pours her coffee with two scoops of sugar,
his demeanor as pleasant as a well-tipped waiter’s.
She picks up the paper, then slips her hand over his,
feeling warmth beneath his callouses and cracked skin.
(First published in Boston Literary Magazine and the collection All That Remains)
I pull out her silver necklace,
cough from the dust of old days,
try to find traces of lingering
perfume she bought that day in Brooklyn
when I had time off to visit.
I paid for cab after cab that day
because she said she hates the sound of rain,
and I remembered our nights together,
how she couldn’t sleep if rain
drummed on our roof,
pinged against garbage cans.
Sounds like ghosts
tapping at windows, the past
always whispering, she’d say.
When I asked what ghosts,
or brushed her back or breasts,
she recoiled under covers.
After cab rides, we found her favorite café
where we had our first date five years ago,
same crank umbrellas, same cannolis, same espresso shots.
Then I had to leave, back to the West Coast,
out of money, out of time.
Now I raise her jewelry to my lips,
cough from the dust of old ghosts.
(From the collection All That Remains)
(First published in Boston Literary Magazine and then All That Remains)