I think of the children who will never know, intuitively, that a flower is a plant’s way of making love, or what silence sounds like, or that trees breathe out what we breathe in.
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There’s no room on the floor, no place
he won’t get bumped and I won’t be able
to stop his fall. So we find a corner.
He’s taken his hearing aids out — the band pounds
its assault. I take his hand, a former boxer’s hand
with a father’s thicker fingers.
He rests his wrist on my shoulder for me to lead.
I pull him closer, feel for his balance, find his eyes,
unsure if he sees mine. I nod once
and gently press him backwards, then to the side.
I study our black shoes, see him teaching me
to spit-shine, his brush punishing
the heels and toes like enemies. He wobbles.
I grab tight.
It was just a shuffle step, a fighter’s feint.
He smirks, loves that I fell for it. I count out loud,
shouting over the music, as if he could hear,
as if this were only about dancing.
My father kneels at my mother’s grave
to ask her permission to go on match.com.
He unfolds some pages it took him hours to print.
Eleanor enjoys bowling and the beach — the sand tickles her toes.
Sherri hopes to see London. Rachel is a twin. He crushes
the papers back into his jacket pocket. Stupid.
Other mourners speak to other graves. He returns
their only-we-know nod, slides a finger down
the first carved letter of the headstone, follows
them all, then the dates, wipes some nonexistent dirt.
Still looks new, he says. And he hopes she won’t hate him — Benny
from the card game put him up to it. Two dumb putzes.
He pulls some short weeds, places three pebbles
on the craggy head of the stone, and sings
Happy Birthday, raising his voice at her name,
so everyone knows he’s with her.