Our Boy Has Grown

When he was four, the family dog,
a border collie named “Rounder”
still towered over him. Once he started
school, for what seemed like ages,
he was the smallest boy in the class
by nearly a full head. Then two. Then three.
Half the girls in his class were taller than
him all through elementary. You remember
having to prop him up at the kitchen table,
putting him on the pillows that Aunt Sadie
had given you that one Christmas, his legs
forever hanging down. You look at him now
in the backyard and he’s wider in the shoulders
and all around. “I made him some oatmeal.
In the blue one,” says his mother. When
his mother’s not looking, you add a few
bags of sugar to it and stir them in, one
five-pound bag after the other. He never
outgrew his fondness for sugar. You backup the
pickup to where he’s laying in the yard.
You poke your head out of the side of the cab
and give a yell. “Feedin’ Time, Son!”
He digs in, greedily shoveling the oatmeal
into his mouth with a shovel. You beam
with pride. Maybe in the big city, things
are different, but out here on the great,
plains of Nebraska, there’s really nothing
that makes a father’s heart swell with pride
more than watching his grown son eat
seventy-five pounds of oatmeal out of the
back of a pickup. It is these little moments
that make life as a parent so very wonderful.
When he has finished, he emits several grunts
you translate as “That was good. Thanks for
adding the sugar,” drops the shovel, rolls
over and goes to sleep. By the barn, as you are
hosing the remnants of the oatmeal out of
the truck’s bed, you wonder if you could buy
a used cement mixer, whether that would
make things easier. And like all fathers who
have unmarried sons of a certain age, in this
case, a certain age being the specific age of 35,
you say yet another prayer to the Lord above
that sooner, rather than later, he’ll finally
find for himself a good and strong
woman to take care of him.

“One More Time With Gusto, Citizen Kane”

My dad used to call me “Citizen Kane”
even though my name was Don.

He’d post tiny ads in the newspaper
“Yellow submarine for sale, never used.
Not the Beatles’ yellow submarine.
But better!”

People would call.

Sometimes he’d tell them
an involved backstory from an old movie
a romantic farce
in which a Broadway dancer named Mildred
needs a husband in order to inherit a big mansion.
He’d somehow work the submarine angle in there
then ask them if they’d marry Mildred.

Sometimes right from the start
he’d say, “Can I just read something to you a second?”
And then read out loud from a children’s book called
“Curse of the Cheese Pyramid”
starting from page one
like he was Andy Kaufman
reading “The Great Gatsby”
until they finally hung up.

Sometimes he’d play it straight for a while
“It’s a World War Two submarine –
a fast-attack submarine
of the Seawolf class,
but painted yellow.
No torpedoes.
Can you meet me at the docks in 1 hour?
How about 50 minutes?
How about 45 minutes?”
When he got them down to 15 minutes
he’d say, “You’re rushing into this whole thing
far, far too fast for my blood.”
and then hang up on them.

If they called back
he’d answer in Yiddish
pretending to be a very irate piano tuner.

After one of the submarine calls
he’d always turn to me with a wink
and say triumphantly
“One more time with gusto, Citizen Kane!”
and we’d say it together
again
for the hundredth time:
“Submarines are sharks of steel!”

He also had this motif of using gypsy signs for
whenever meals were ready.
I don’t know why.
I could always smell them
and see them quite clearly on the kitchen table
from the living room sofa.

Yeah
Cordelia, Macbeth, and me
we had us some long afternoons.

The Raindrop’s a Father to Itself

the raindrop’s a
father to itself
paused above
in the eaves
then departing
in the slow motion
pull of gravity
lost in blurred descent
changing with speed
until ripples
radiate its welcome
to the darkened lake
that will gradually turn
invisible
tomorrow
as its progeny
the new children of the sky
make their ascent
to await
the ongoing miracle
of fatherhood