I should have made my way straight to you long ago,
I should have blabb’d nothing but you,
I should have chanted nothing but you.
– Walt Whitman
I am interested
in mathematics of your teeth,
the history of your orthodontia.
Your doctors, dentists, school nurses,
old teachers, tennis instructors,
Whoever promised they could make
you well, or smarter, or stronger.
More serene, more beautiful.
I want to know how an apple tastes on your tongue,
your sudden cravings for pickled beets,
your need for herring on Sunday mornings,
for dark salt pretzels and mustard,
for lemons and hot sauce,
for miso soup!
Where you buy gasoline,
your favorite auto mechanic.
I am interested in the undercarriage of your car,
the various insurance policies
that watch over you.
The cosmology of your glove compartment,
the maps that send you in all directions,
registrations, manuals, parking tickets,
the picture on your driver’s license,
the DMV clerk who instructed you to smile.
I am fascinated by the chemistry of your wash,
the bottles of detergents, softeners, bleach.
The architecture of your laundry,
the towers of folded towels and sheets.
The secrets in the cabinet under your sink,
the variations on cleansers,
polishes, spot removers, disinfectant sprays,
the blue liquid you put in the rinse cycle
that makes your dishes glow,
the silverware shine.
Confide how your jaw felt this morning.
How you slipped on the kitchen floor,
the Band-Aid on your thumb.
Your favorite bowl,
your favorite cup, your favorite spoon.
Why you stir you tea
counter-clockwise into a whirlpool.
Tell me your theories on toothpaste,
the proper brushing of teeth.
The science of your shower,
your soaps, shampoos, lotions, oils, perfumes.
How you wash the suds from your hair,
wrap yourself in a towel, turban your head.
Bring out the album of baby pictures,
the polaroids of you at Fire Island,
squeezing your best friend,
grinning for the camera,
the red sunglasses, the polka dot bikini.
Snapshots of you in the blue Chevy,
the Irish Setter and the Siamese.
The black-and-whites of you
in your high school yearbook,
coming down the stairs in your prom dress.
The photo of the boy you first kissed.
Tell me the stories of your family.
How your father and mother fell in love,
the sibling rivalries, the black sheep.
Enumerate all your cousins,
firsts, seconds, thirds, fourths,
all your great aunts, and great-great aunts,
distant relations in faraway lands,
ancestors, genealogies, gene pools.
Chronicle the history of your day,
the meteorology of your moods.
Report on the clouds, the sun, the moon,
tropical storms heading for the Bahamas.
I want to know about the oak trees
that greet you every morning,
the cracks in the pavement,
the sidewalks that escort you home.
Tell me how you stayed up all night
rearranging the furniture,
moving the pictures on the walls.
Tell me where you placed the couch,
where you put the blue chair––
Tell me everything, everything.
I have wasted so much time
in the commerce of this world.
I have spent too many hours
studying other men’s lives.
Read too many books.
Now I care for nothing but you.
Hold my head in your hands.
Whisper your stories, secrets, dreams.
Find me with your gentle voice.
For some days now,
the air seems easier to breath.
My left leg is not so numb,
my vision clearer.
Tonight, as I walk home from the train,
I suddenly hear your voice again.
I turn and see you running after me,
and for the first time
in twenty years, I stop
and wait for you to catch up.
You are so young,
Just a teenager really,
the big smile,
t-shirt and jeans,
as if it were still summer.
Wrap my coat around you.
Take my scarf.”
I hold you
and feel your heart
beating again in my chest.
The light wakes me––
a white glow coming
through all the windows.
It is the Moon in the backyard again,
sitting in a lawn chair.
Just dropped by to say “Hello,”
his white Humpty Dumpty face
as big as the house.
I bring out two glasses of milk,
and jelly sandwiches,
and sit beside him on the lawn.
We turn on the old radio
and listen to the prizefight,
Cassius Clay vs. Sonny Liston.
His mouth always an O.
“It’s the body punch” he says,
“That’s the knockout blow.”
His enormous head
slowly becomes smaller and smaller
as we talk through the night.
In the morning, I find my father
sleeping in the backyard,
sitting in a lawn chair,
small and frail,
white t-shirt and trousers,
too thin for his clothes.
His beautiful round face,
his white, translucent skin,
smiling before he disappears.