Just three months after he died,
my father came back all snappy and tart
in a trim fedora and houndstooth jacket.
He was driving a white De Soto ragtop
and flashing money he’d won at the track.
Somewhere up there,
a waiting room clerk
had sent him in for restyling
and smuggled him back to 1948.
Though he knew I was fifty-two
and not the six-year old Long Island kid
he’d sometimes take fishing,
we talked about whether or not
he should stay with Mom,
add my brother to the household,
settle for weight upon weight
of respectable forty-hour weeks,
bland business suits, commutes,
dumb bosses, budgets, and canasta.
We both knew that the dull long haul
had played out flat and mean,
that he’d flee to joyless dreams
that would silence our cries: “he’s sacked
out on the couch again,” we’d say.
He snoozed through decades, half-waking
when we’d taken care of this or that without him.
Now he was dead and gone and back,
assertive and clear-eyed,
pursuing his hungers into the world,
suggesting that only a buffing up
had been needed all the time —
or perhaps a different life.
He told me he’d always been proud
about how I’d turned out,
didn’t know why he’d never said so,
and that even though he had regrets
about his seasons of oblivion,
he wasn’t going to wallow in the future
now that he was back in action.
He was looking to take chances,
to try out everything he could,
because if there was one thing he had learned
it was that you could just blink or doze
for a moment and the whole damn thing was over.
And then he was off to check out
some beachfront property. Did I want in?
Yes, oh yes, I said, –but he was gone.
(from Making Change, Argonne House Press © 2001. Originally published in Poetry Motel)