My sister only wanted a horse
an my parents thought they could solve
that dilemma with a pony at her fifth birthday party
where she would get all the extra rides,
her friends and playmates be damned.
Like most great parental plans,
this one was doomed to failure,
and failure marched front and center
as they learned from the pony was loaded
back into the trailer and my sister
tried to tie herself to the trailer
with ribbon from her gift wrap.
She was never good with knots,
even when she died at 52, the cancer
having ravaged her one organ at a time,
but even in her waning days, she
whine to our mother that all she ever wanted
was a horse, then winked at me, staring
around her hospital room, since we both knew
there was a pony in there somewhere.
It is always odd
watching older men gather
to talk about their lives,
about how much they
no longer remember of last
year and a decade ago, about
the infinite details they do
recall of their time spent
in the army, air force, navy,
the smell of slop on a shingle,
the stain on the finger from
field stripped cigarette butts,
the olive drab they were and lived,
the base post exchange
the mandatory Ray Ban aviator’s,
the sergeants grimace,
the body count no one mentioned
in the war they hated, wanted over,
how they were all brothers
in arms, now just old men,
sharing painful memories.
I have fond memories
of a childhood I never lived.
Those are the best childhoods
from for they reflect life as you
meant it to be lived.
In this life my father
is in his late nineties,
still smiles when he sees me, not
didn’t clutch his chest
sixty-one years ago,
didn’t fall to the floor,
didn’t leave me half
an orphan again,
doesn’t live only
in the periphery
of my dreams.
Ambrose Bierce walked into Mexico
one day, and was never seen again.
That was surprising enough, but
more so, he left no epitaph, the least
you would expect from a writer.
In retrospect, perhaps he was
the smarter one, for I know othersl
who have spent countless hours
trying to devise the perfect epitaph,
knowing they never quite got it right.
I almost fell victim to that trap,
but avoided it the moment that
I realized that regardless of what
I might so carefully select, it is
my heirs who will have the final say.
Merriam-Webster declared me an orphan
yesterday morning, when my father
slipped away from his morphine dreams.
Some would argue I cannot be an orphan
at my age, that is a sanctuary reserved
for children, but I am long past
admitting my age, and my behavior
gives no lie to my claim of childhood.
I will continue to miss him, for his dementia
stole him memory by memory over the years,
and I was left to fill the void
with stories of my childhood, remembered
and imagined, to him there was no difference.
I can now fully mourn my birth mother,
gone for years before I found her, and
my birth father, who I can now claim and
at the same time assume dead, more
a commentary on my advancing age
than any reflection on him, save
in the mirror and the faces of my grandchildren.
And now the two men who adopted me
and the woman they really wanted,
and I are no longer part of the same package.
They have a youth that you think
should make you envious, poured
into clothing that would be
a second skin, if skin were silk
and polyester, patterned tights
hair ironed straight, colored highlights
and you still recall when this
what a fascinated you, when
you would have found it alluring.
You probe the corners of your memory
knowing the trigger is there, unable
to find it in the vague images of velvet,
flowing and draping, colors more vibrant
in the acid fog, knowing it would all
crash down too soon, that the cocktails they hold
should be cheap jug wine in plastic cups
to prolong the slow descent back
into the real world from which the blotter
paper and cactus provided a welcomed escape.
They hide in corners, and you think
you can see them, but you cannot be certain
for they are vague and could be no more
than wishes, but belief is sufficient.
As you grow older, the number of corners grow
and a universe of but eight corners
is now itself tucked in a corner of memory.
One corner hides the face of the man
who adopted me, watched for two years,
before departing suddenly, and the only item
I have is his diploma rolled up in a tube
where my own accomplishments are rolled.
In another corner the day I met the man
I now call father is so deeply buried
only his present, increasingly absent
aging face is all I can see.
Memories are elusive, appearing
and disappearing without warning
day by day the oldest evanesce
and that corner is filled
by another memory grown vague.