My Father Going Away


My Father Going Away
Collected in: The Ghosts of You and Me


In a room far back in my mind
with strangers, my father
pressed the thick rim


of the glass to my mouth
burning my lips and throat,
then went back up


to where the laughter was.
My father was always
going away. “Where are you?”


I asked the tiny holes
in the phone my mother
handed me, unable to fit


his answer to my ear.
I spoke to my father
after he left us again


and again. Once, years
later, he was there,
wearing the odd, worn face


his real life had happened to,
and I, at the door of the present,
standing in the past. “I can’t


hear you,” I told him.
He was the slurred voice
that talked to itself


in a rental car while I
drove him through
the night to the city


where he would leave me
for the last time. Who were
the strangers that laughed


and drank with my father
in the house at the end
of the dark? All dead now,


and my father himself now dead,
but not before he twists
a twenty into my hand


next morning with his shaking
hand so hard I feel it
burning as I board the train.


Outside my father, going away,
is waving and shouting
something that makes him


start toward me, something
he has held back all this time
behind the glass.



Photograph: Vintage Bakelite Phone, Cape Porpoise, Maine