Poetry  January 2013 | issue 445

Family Tree

by Lee Rossi

Lee Rossi’s poems have appeared in Southern Poetry Review and North American Review. Now well into retirement in San Carlos, California, he continues to improve his homemaking skills, with a marked aptitude for preparing hot dogs and prewashed salads. He wonders if it’s too late to seek refuge in the priesthood.

Once in our twenties we thought we would never die.

— Elizabeth Spires

I watch my son high in the magnolia
where branches thin. His sister
at the foot of the tree shrieks for him

to come down and play with her. They know I am
watching, that I will catch him when he falls
and save her from loneliness.

They know I will be watching even when
I have sunk into the ground like the water
I sprinkle on lilies and grapes.

How they know this I do not know,
just as I don’t know where my son learned
to trust the net of leaf and limb

that keeps him aloft or what bird
gave my daughter her heartbreaking cries.
If only they could see what I see,

their father rising slowly into air,
becoming that mix of sunshine and vapor,
the brightness that brings them to tears.

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