This poem focuses on bright childhood memories, and on a dark discussion my Father initiated with me one evening in the 1950s.

Of the four brothers alluded to, all were alive in 1993 when the poem was written.  Three are gone now, including Uncle Joe.  And including my Father, who died on December 6th, 2003.

                   Approaching Year's End, 1993

  i. then and now
I was a Brooklyn boy, through and through.
We would often visit Uncle Joe, who presented
Himself as a jolly man and always asked us
The same riddles as if brand new:
Why do firemen wear red, white and blue suspenders?
From the daughter, nephews, nieces shrill, in unison:
 To hold their pants up.
We would laugh and laugh we would be happy.
  ii. now and then
Uncle Joe's the second oldest of the six and
Oldest still alive at 85, 86, hard, it is hard
To believe now, more so it must be for him.
The two sisters--one projecting worldliness,
Culture, whose piano I used to bang as I watched
The four-tracked busy Brighton line, the other,
The other, in and out of asylums--both sisters
Dead now, both dead.  The four "boys"--still alive,
Father, next oldest, slowing, impenetrable.
 iii. then and now
Once when I was maybe ten--
Meaning 1957, give or take,
My father had me outside playing
"Catch," which I loved and love him
For as seldom else or since.
We were done, good workout,
Outfield fantasies intact.
We stood at the sidewalk
End of our long, narrow alley.
He said in some flow or context
In shimmering heat, hard summer light
He said,
  You'll be 53 in the year 2000;
You'll live to see it.
I won't live to see it,
But you will.
Impossibly remote to the ten year old,
But something stuck, somewhere it stuck
Like the rubber ball to glove leather
On a good or lucky catch, slight body
Frozen against disused garage, it stuck,
It stuck.
I loved to ride from earliest childhood, always.
We took day trips, went on carefully packed picnics or
To the beach or relatives or museums in other boroughs.
Father was slow even then and cautious but I had no
Other driver to compare and was happy just to ride.
I loved to go for rides, was happy anywhere by car.
They would be selling roadside pretzels
Along the outbound parkways, a nickel,
Six for a quarter.  We would be treated;
I was happy along the highways, watching,
Knowing all the landmarks, signs, each place
Where the tracks came or used to come.
Once I was in back seat, right side (as always),
Late afternoon coming south through Long Island.
The sun was bright.  The trees were in full leaf,
Deep green of late summer, the sun was very bright.
I closed my eyes, rubbed hard, saw colors, patterns
Radiated as I faced sunward, eyes shut at the bright
And lowering sun.
       I loved it.
              I loved the motion.
                     The subversion of light.
                     The patterns induced.
                     The pavement.
                     The bumps.
                     The road.
Something stuck, something stuck.  
    iv. now and then
When I mentioned father's long ago prediction
To them I could see feeling on mother's face,
The thinker.  Father had no recollection,
An idle comment made in a pleasant moment
Once and the subject quickly passed.
I always had a sense of place but it
Astounds me suddenly now, decades by,
That I stored that image of deep leaves
And dark brightness as "going south."
No one else around ever talked of the compass
       Or studied maps
              Or closed their eyes at the sun.
Outside it is cold and the fog will again thicken
Soon and freeze the surfaces as it did this morning.
There were many accidents this dangerous morning
All through the Puget Sound region.  I was home.
Inside the heat is fine
And red wine cozies me
And no cat crosses the keyboard
And in some ways it is no easier 
To contemplate the year two thousand
Than it was three decades and more 
Ago when my father was strong
And he'd have me outside playing
Catch and I would go up for long throws
And would sometimes make leaping
Outstretched lucky stabs and my father
Would show real emotion and I would
Feel good and impulsively laugh and
Throw the ball back for another try
And I would be very, very happy.
  v. conclusion
But no harder, either, I suppose.
    Bothell, Washington,
December, 1993

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