In the old house I could see all the way up Pearsal Avenue
Until the houses and trees disappeared
Into the mud of memory. I stood at my window
And watched the comings and goings of cars, buses, men,
And especially the kid who lived next to the Hannigans.
He paced Pearsal, jacked up on whatever devils
Would not let him rest, his long stride angry, his hands
Gesticulating over his head of stringy, unkempt hair.
He had nowhere to go, but he was going as fast as he could.
His parents stood on their porch frowning:
He smoked, and she held a cup that wasn’t filled with water.
Every so often the father said something, shaking his head,
And you could see the mother slide a finger along the cup,
Look off toward their son, his face covered in drool,
Those hands conducting a symphony only he could hear.
This scene has stayed with me for thirty-five years,
And I’ll confess I don’t know what to do with it.
I’ve forgotten what it felt like to make love to my first wife,
To be inside her, to feel her breast on my young lips.
I’ve forgotten the sound of my beloved grandmother’s voice,
A slight that seems a betrayal, a weakness of character.
So much else has come and gone, blinking out in the night.
Yet I still see that mother slink slowly back into the house,
See the father rise and follow her while their son
Marches Pearsal Avenue, marches, marches, until at last
Even he vanishes into the cover of trees, distance, dark.