In a college dorm, in a prison, in a marriage
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When you need them most, to ask
where to go from here, your hair
growing brittle as February grass,
they’re gone, singly or united,
under stone in a safe place where
the stranger who cares for them,
pulling a mower behind his
to trim the grass they lie beneath,
setting poison out
for the mice and squirrels and weeds
that mate nearby, knows them
better than you, seasons laboring by
like old city buses against the wind,
but too far away to disturb
a parent’s rest, their reward
for teaching you that being their child’s
the same as being no one else,
that mourning them’s the final thing
you have to learn.
Hundreds of highway miles away,
as far from dreaming as midday
is from star, in the middle
of things in no way related
to him, I suddenly think
of my father’s wrinkled hands,
each vein throbbing and hard.
I’m a small boy not much taller
than his table. He stops, turns
and stoops to show me
what he’s making. Then he’s gone.
O when will this loving end?