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.