Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Kiss To Comfort Him (revised)

When I consider how hard Dad worked
on perfection, and I know
with certainty, how clearly he understood all
his achievements fell short,

I think then about the passion
he put into handwriting—with a fountain pen—
and the delight he had in his strokes and curves,
immodestly admiring those graceful loops, those elegant spaces.

In my vision, he sits back,
gazes at his signature complete,
thinks to himself,
“Yes. Almost perfect this time.”

You really should have seen it. Really.
At the bottom of a page, how it soared and glided,
his clear message to the world.
“I am here. I am me.”

Letters precise and self-assured,
the work of a meticulous man.
Today—many years after he died—
I think how that signature began to ail,
that the passion and the pride was gone before he died.

His last few signatures,
quivering, shaky, imprecise,
not his, not grand. I wish I could have given him
some gift to restore his will.
A kiss. A kiss.

The 1983 mayoral campaign in Chicago,
a victory for so many, a triumph
for Southside and Westside,
for Harold Washington,
for African Americans
intolerably shut out,
for neighborhoods
neglected without

But for Bernie—for Bernard E. Epton—
it was defeat, It was dealings with devils,
It was the catastrophe of his life,
the end of celebration.

Angry, hiding the throbbing of wounds,
weepy, listless, brimming with bitterness,
he was fallen, he was doomed,
And it was there, in the way he signed his name.

He was so deadly disappointed by who we would remember.
I wish I could have given him something of mine, anything
to comfort him.
A kiss.

Would he be happy to hear my sometimes delight
in his gifts of love, reliably exciting, rich with our pain and our striving?
Or would he charge me with too much delight
that I am not him?

Oh, but I am here and, sometimes, him.
It’s as if some secret side
of him is awakening
in me. As if
he kissed

1 comment:

  1. i love your poems because they are simple and piercing. this one, especially so.