fathers retreating

dad home from work

dark brown easy chair.

on black and white tv

boxers punching.

 

i kiss his rough cheek

say good night.

but dad says at twelve

i am too old for that.

 

for years felt

the hole in my gut

the humiliation for those

expressions of love.

 

forgot that grandfather

abandoned his thirteen kids

when dad was twelve

during the great depression.

 

dad quit school

worked to feed the family

searched his whole life

for a father

 

l’envoi

 

it’s too late to say,

my late father, 

but i love you for giving 

what love you could

 

an honest life

 

oregonafternon - 1.jpg

 

an honest life

i hike east along the Rogue

he heads west

looking too old for the cooler

strapped to his back.

his dun-colored dog drags

the twine rope tied to its collar.

i step aside and say “you look

ready to catch some salmon.”

“ain’t goin’ to wet a line for four days”

gap-toothed smile and hustling still.

i nod and then see them bump up

a steep section of trail,

his jeans with a hole in the butt

him and his dog

to camp along the wild river

in the deep Oregon night.

thursday morning

 

while stuffing quarters in dryers and washers

a young mother holds her baby and

screams at her two year-old son

who darts around the laundry baskets

as two men slam and rock and kick the

reluctant soap dispenser while

an older man waits outside

head bowed, hands clasped

on the top of his car and back inside

a young father lifts his little daughter

into a laundry basket and unloads

trash bags of dirty clothes into washers

while talking to another guy

beneath the sign on the wall —

“NO FIREARMS ALLOWED ON PREMISES”

about his friend driving while stoned

killed someone on a bicycle