With a broken-down oven, in a hotel kitchen, on an uninhabited island
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These days I wake up tired / after hours skimming sleep’s / surface like a hungry bird, waiting. / They say it’s a fact of growing older, / to lose the skill for sleep infants / and teenagers effortlessly have.
A glistening white steamship, launched in 1924, with an old-fashioned straight-up-and-down bow and tall single funnel from which billowed thick black smoke, it was, like my mother, an unapologetic citizen from a different time.
Life has always been as hard as the soles of my father’s feet. Like the callused hand my face melts into. He holds it like the cantaloupe before a fruit salad. Like life before America. Before it’s sliced, devoured, consumed.
We were warned not to complain — / plenty more temps they could call. / Warned, too, to avoid the break room / with its jailhouse camera / swiveling right outside the boss’s office, / his speakers playing only country.
My mother didn’t raise a thief, but by the time you round forty, you’re pretty much raising yourself. I scooped the package from its hiding place, then waved my free hand at the doorbell camera.
I want to help carry the burden when it is heaviest. The dying patients and their families need time with a compassionate stranger: someone they don’t have to expend their fragile energy to try to support or protect.
For all Dad’s skill with wood and tools, his life was sloppily built. Some sorrow whose origins I can’t name led him to consistently misread the ruler. What does a son do with the wreckage of his father’s life forty-six years after his death?
I could feel the losses of my past lurking nearby. Not just animals but other losses, too. They exhaled from the piles like human whispers.
Everything new disappears, within and without. Alzheimer’s disease is eroding her hippocampus. . . . She has what the neurologist calls “rapid forgetting,” so she lives in a state of evanescence; nothing holds.