Mendocino

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Crying Man

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The Hold

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Friday
Jun112010

The Hold

There it is!  Just before putting out the light.
Here in the doorway to his room.
The unmistakable smell of him,
though his train pulled out an hour ago.
Not a child’s smell anymore, but a young man’s air
of college nights and long wool coats
and jokes so cool they cannot be explained.
You had to be there, Dad, he says.

Now in his scented wake I wait,
knowing he’ll soon be gone for good,
graduating to some new city,
paying too much rent.
And this room where for years he slept
and read, while brown hair broke through
on his face and chest… Soon
it will be a place for someone else to rest. 
But not quite yet.

This fragrant air is sweet to me
tonight. The dusty heat rising
from baseboard vents. The windows tight. 
His house-warmed high school books
upright in their case.
Like me, they’ve done their work.
What we instructors had to say
has all been said.  And what he took to heart
is as unfathomable now
as what he cast away.

For he’s moving on and on his own
to worlds he’ll live to see
but I will never fully know.  Of course
he’ll stop again to sleep and eat.
We’ll speak again of Charlemagne
and Russell Crowe.   But the being of him,
that second self housed for years
nearly inside my skin, is elsewhere
flowing on, flown.

How does a father live, I wonder.
But it’s late now.  At the stair
my wife is calling.  And so I remember
that morning my son was first handed to me,
still blood-smudged and birth-slippery.
And because I was a new father then
and because my inexperience showed
the midwife taught me how to hold a child properly.
Lightly now, she cautioned. 
But also pulling at my arms, testing me,
until I sensed what it meant
not to let go.