Alan Walowitz (www.alanwalowitz.com) has been published various places on the web and off. He’s a Contributing Editor at Verse-Virtual, an Online Community Journal of Poetry, and teaches at Manhattanville College. His chapbook, Exactly Like Love, is in its second printing and is available from Osedax Press. His full-length book, The Story of the Milkman and other poems, will be out this year. He hopes.
. . . And they, since they
Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.
“Out, Out” –Robert Frost
It’s getting late, past supper,
and a boy sits by the window waiting.
He can’t see far for the trees,
so he’s learned to stare
at the only cypress out front.
If he holds his head just right
the shiny needles catch the lights of all the cars,
even those not traveling his road.
So cars come and cars go
and nothing he wishes for happens.
He feels no one will ever come.
He’ll wait forever, and this will be his only life, waiting–
woman’s work, his father told him once.
So now I’ve learned to just pretend.
Follow the motions and life might feel
sharp enough, cutting, real. But then
I fail again and write another longing poem
that ought to exorcise the longing.
And damn if the old feeling isn’t fed by what I write.
Frost says, No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.
He knows, for us who have to write,
everything can feed everything, tears feed tears,
longing longing. But why not say anything
about what fathers do?
Or, why fathers don’t come home
sometimes, not even to turn to their affairs?
The year my father turned 68
he began to cross at corners,
wait for the light, even
for the sign that flashed Don’t Walk
which he used to ignore and joke,
What if I can’t read?
Once they got him for jaywalking
which he did plenty
on Broadway and 28th
where the dress racks whirled
as the cars whizzed too close
and rattled the pint in his pocket
he kept to keep him steady–
but what would he care,
long as he got there quick
and had a story to tell.
He knew he wasn’t due to die
till 68, same as his pop,
who some said he looked like,
was built like, barrel-bellied and ruddy
and though he didn’t want to hurry it along
saw no need to take chances,
though his heart hurt
and he could hardly breathe
for the terror of living
with his father’s death,
which now he owned,
hanging low over his head
like the black fedora
pulled tight over his eyes.
In fact, he made it till 70,
frankly, a little disappointed
at the extra time he had to put in.
And that’s what I’m looking at now.
So, please. Don’t tell me I look like him,
though I loved that guy
and didn’t want to see him
stop at corners–
and when the time was right
I didn’t want to see him have to go.