It was after my 31 year-old body fell from the ledge
of the skateboard ramp and lay on its back clutching
its knee then its wrist that I convinced the white sheet
of high thin clouds I was all right.
It was after I watched one chickenhawk follow
another into a wall of pine trees that I decided
if I can’t be young in the afterlife, I don’t want to go.
It was after this, the black spot of sweat
on the asphalt in the shape of a torso disappeared.
"This Poem Cost Me One Hundred Dollars"
Once when I lived in the city, locked out
while high on heroin and Ecstasy
my head resting against the gray steel door
of my apartment, I had a series of waking dreams
about purgatory in Dante's hell.
But now I'm the kind of guy
who spends five grand I don't have
on clearing the vetch and vines from my yard.
I'm the kind of guy who says heck yes
when invited to a wedding in Milan.
On the flight there I tell a fellow passenger
a story about my son's fear of the ocean,
and then nod yes many times as she relates it
to the Sermon on the Mount.
And when a beautiful Italian man
shows me how to tie a perfect
fist-sized knot in my tie
and then gives me his,
I give him mine,
even though mine cost a hundred dollars.
I'm the kind of guy who once had a tie
that cost one hundred dollars
and now has a story about losing it.
"This Morning My Son Dominic Watches Me Shave my Father"
After a while he runs into the kitchen
to tell my mother I am making my father bleed.
My parents have moved recently
from my childhood house
and now live on the seventh floor of The Hallmark,
a building with a mighty elevator.
Here, the rules, made by the residents themselves,
say the men must wear a tie and coat to dinner.
Dad has so many age spots, half dollar-sized
moles, mottled, wrinkled skin. I had not looked forward
to shaving him. But he helps me by smiling
a grim smile when I scrape just below his lower lip.
His dimpled chin a crevasse, I wrestle
with his great jowls as they slip back into what was
his indignant but now wizened frown.
Dad is ninety-one and has become
wonderfully more and more sweet
as he has grown senile. I'm sorry, I say,
it's this lotion and my clumsy left hand.
The wattle under his chin is next. I say,
Look up and again, Look up, Dad
before he shows me his slack-skinned tendons,
sinuous as the kneed base of a great water-tree.
Finally, I shave the hairs that grow on his ear tops,
the same ones I pluck from mine. I linger there
and over his beautiful, strange head,
over the fine hairs that grow from his bald pate,
and think of his story explaining his baldness,
how the Indians scalped himhow
I believed him about so many things for so long.
And maybe it is because I have cut him so much,
but he is more lucid than usual.
He makes jokes with Dominic. He makes sense.
I wash the foamy muck from under his eyes
and where it has gathered under his ears.
Dad gets close to the mirror and tells my boy
to get a lawyer, so he can sue me for all I've got.