Sestina To My Father, Who Now Smokes Only In His Heart
(for Thomas Cipro)
The best spent evening on this goddamned earth,
is lying around, having a smoke,
inhaling Brautigan, Berryman, and Bellow,
dispatching children to the Land of Dreams and Shadows,
eating, with my fingers, marinated artichoke hearts,
and looking at old pictures of my father when he was a Beat.
I know by his old, patched clothing that he was a Beat;
by his ratty, black turtleneck and loose knobby trousers the color of disturbed earth;
by the clutched book, the Van Dyke beard, the tattoo of intertwined hearts,
hidden, that said Bill and Joan in them; by the constant ribbon of grey smoke
that encircled his passionate head; by the shadows
of question and discontent made by the curve of his mouth, a mouth that would bellow
on and on about Paris & Pound, art & life, economics, poetry, and the tendency to
exist; a mouth that would bellow
at his coffee shop comrades, trying to beat
them with logic by dredging the ponds and shadows
of his own subconscious. They aroused, they condemned, they purposely poured the
onto their own wounds, in a heady ritual of smoke
and coffee meant to infinitely link their minds and their hearts.
Sometimes they were distracted — by a waitresses’ chest, the smallness of their own
lives, a friendly game of Hearts.
But mostly, it was the articulate act, the lucid waltz of words that compelled them to
on, kept in time by the rising and falling of the smoke,
and the sleepy beat
of a weary earth
they planned to rouse from its thick nap of complacent shadows.
Long ago, my father lifted me from imagined childhood shadows,
pressing together our minds and our hearts,
whispering to me how to find beauty on this earth —
to listen for its beckon and bellow
calling me to a place where words and ideas beat
against each other until they become a lovely dust, to be sucked in and savored, like
a good smoke.
You stayed in New York, now with patches on your tweed elbows, and one on your arm
to stave off the love of smoke.
And I am here, still cast in your long, mutinous shadows,
still hearing the umbilical beat
of our minds and our hearts
intertwined, like a tattoo on an old man’s arm. You call me and my impassioned
offspring shout and bellow
and demand to speak with you. They descend on me, their feet causing a revolution
on the linoleum earth.
Father, I have lived as you have, searching the earth; taking in bliss, like smoke;
Answering the occasional rebel bellow; finding light in shadows.
I will never lose heart; we resound to the same beat
— Muffy Bolding