Monday, February 6, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Published in The Passaic County Community College Anthology in 1989

Black Dress Poem

  Isn't it a bitter thing to think of him floating that way...
  and no one to keen him but the black hags that do be flying
  on the sea.                         
                                                J. M. Synge
                                               Riders To The Sea

Daddy, I used to smell your T-shirts
lying so white in the drawer,
as I put the laundry away,
long thoughtful breaths,
leafing nervously
through the old photographs,
you kept hidden under the socks,
looking for clues.

It was my secret ritual,
leaning against the foot board
of the pineapple-poster marriage bed
that had always been too small for you.

Pictures of you as a young Marine
in bar after bar surrounded by friends,
their faces so many smiling moons
held close by your gravity, some Rita
Hayworth woman on your arm.

The eight by ten
Mommy talked about
through gritted teeth:
Lola with the long red nails
who was crazy for you
but wouldn't have suited the family.

My father the Admiral's Orderly,
with a mustache and a forty five,
dressed in your battle tuxedo:
an open pack of Camels
your boutonniere.

It would have been impossible then
to imagine that you stood
on the rim of a bottomless well
that would eventually swallow you,
or that your children would have to turn
their backs on you to save themselves.

Daddy, all the years you kept from sinking,
by pouring a sea of beer down your throat,
I searched for you everywhere,
despite the shadows. I want to tell you,
I saw you, I saw you, even though
a curtain hung between us:
too heavy for me to lift.

1 comment:

Joyce said...

Wow, Eileen,

This is a very moving poem. You convey your feelings perfectly. You have stimulated visual images of the moments you describe. I loved this.
I assume that was a picture of you and your dad - cute and handsome.