Author's Note: Fathers and sons - I’ve written a lot about my father, who was a gentle, bookish, eccentric immigrant who spoke many languages, and quoted Goethe at length, though he never heard of Johnny Carson. My two sons have turned out well, which is no surprise since they were such good kids. But I wonder what they would write about me?
Mouth to Mouth
Mouth to mouth, my father said. Like this, and he bent over the cantaloupe my mom had been saving for breakfast, breathing or blowing in and out, in and out. It was always like that, something crazy before the day had really begun. Once he told me that he was successful because, no matter what, he could always express himself. It was six o’clock in the morning, and I watched him climb up on a soapbox he kept by his bed. He began to express himself. What I remember is that he talked about how much he hated department stores, and I think of him now as I drive past our failing mall, how happy he would be to see the almost empty parking lot and the access road rutted and torn. Once he followed me into the bathroom, held a cold hamburger from last night’s dinner to my nose. Here, he said, this smells fine, doesn’t it? Want it for breakfast? We walked together to the subway. Every day he stopped at the newsstand to buy the Times, which he picked up off a large stack. Above them hung the girly magazines, with women who looked half crazed. I never saw anyone buy one of these, but then I was so embarrassed that I looked away across Continental Avenue to where the Catholic School girls lined up for the bus. He crossed the street against the traffic, newspaper pressed to his nose, and I wonder how he never got killed by one of those cars whose drivers honked and screamed curses as he ambled by.
My father stepped out from behind the curtain, hair aflame, eyes dragging paintings from the wall — landscapes and portraits, a series of colored squares lying smashed in their broken frames. There was a map of medieval Prague, a seascape with black clouds. My father’s nose had been broken many times and now it swelled red like a water balloon. He waved his hands above his head and sang with a sheetmetal voice, a voice of thorns and nails. We watched him pick his way across the room like a man crossing a frozen pond, step-slide, step-slide, until he collapsed on the couch, groaning with anguish and relief. My uncle wrapped him in a towel, and we applauded as they bowed, our faces in the windows swept by roaring wind.
©2021 Steve Klepetar
Editor's Note: If this poem(s) moves you please consider writing to the author (email address above) to tell her or him. You might say what it is about the poem that moves you. Writing to the author is what builds the community at Verse Virtual. It is very important. -JL