Monday, November 26, 2007
When the music ends I think to change the station,
but sit in a flood of Spanish from which I pick
a word here, phrase there, finally
submerged in the bewildering velocity,
ten again, riding, watching your thick
wrists nudge the wheel, fingers quick
with silver levered from your oiled machine
to Puerto Rican voyagers on Riverside.
At lights you turn and make your toothpick
bounce to “Ach du Lieber Augustine,”
the one whose bus I wait all week to ride.
Thirty years you drove, well or sick,
your iron horses. You were immortal. There was
no zero in my young arithmetic.
But zero is, and finally Christmastime
was the last stop. Sleep, deep and dreamless,
descended on a long day of rain;
you folded into silent night, humane
and bitter passage, unheralded, unless
the angels sang somewhere to give you rest.
If so, I didn’t hear it, and I drove all night
to see you in your glossed mahogany.
But it wasn’t you, the satined, overdressed
cadaver, mummy under muted lights
which yet betrayed the wooden forgery
by earth inherited, by clergy blessed.
We put a good man in the ground.
We told each other it was for the best.
We packed your things away that afternoon.
The top drawer fell to me: a silver chain
on which two broken pocket watches hung;
two old Hohners, G, one sprung;
a squat Sir Walter Raleigh’s which contained
your last few years of slugs and foreign change;
a safety razor, three-piece, brass, Gillette;
a new Norelco dusted with your hair;
two vials for Parkinson’s and two for pain;
some collar stays; a sleeve of cigarettes.
I smoked, thought: This is it? Here
one day, the next a box of stuff?
You whispered, framed in regimental gear:
“The Ritz it ain’t, Kiddo. But enough’s enough.”