for Henry McMonagle, 1939-1991
I Now that you’re dead, you are no more the uncle in the orange armchair yelling at ball players, no longer the typesetter, the father of three adults and two teens, all of whom laughed at the taunting ten black tips of your fingers. Your world, never easy: nothing adding up at school. And on the way home the Milano twins followed in their father’s green Plymouth Fury. You walked confidently, wearing your one white shirt, certain they would beat you; and they would — for your family’s Irish red hair. II In a picture taken a year after you married, you’re nineteen and tall, with a sly smile that complements your ducktail. You stand with your hands on the bar of a stroller: and in the seat in a parka, slumped to one side, is your son, asleep. We don’t see her eyes because your wife blinked. But she is young, and even in black and white, her chin-length hair gleams. Her gloved hand holds a snow ball, and in the innocence of her smile is the last year anyone in Brooklyn would leave a door unlocked. III After working thirty-five years in a print shop, a man sits down in his living room and looks around him. Maybe the walls need painting, maybe his wife’s upstairs, tired of their son, unemployed and singing in the basement. After working nights and sleeping days for thirty-five years, a man fixes himself an enormous sandwich. He warms the bread, piles high the sliced roast beef. Who can blame him for his love of beer? And after decades of watching wars on TV, watching his daughters grow responsible, who can blame a man for moving from a table to an armchair where he can sit or sleep or lean back with eyes open and dream.