When It Happened
When Dad came home from the hospital, Donna Summer,
on the radio. A blue robe. Welcome home! Detoxing,
there were ghosts: his mother white-nightgowning toward him
through the center of his bed. Back of his neck, railroad-stitched,
just over the cervical spine. Christmastime? The Super-8’s
flood light so bright, he’s squinting. Hold up the new robe!
Blondie was singing about hearts of glass, and either there were icicles
or it was hot and humid. A tropical dress on a heavy July night.
Sometimes I think it was January, his car skidding on black ice.
Other times I’m sure it’s July and summer vacation, tuning the radio
to catch a song and a breeze through the screen. Set the table,
wash the dishes, just one long Formica day.
He was there, then he was gone. He came back.
It was Christmas and we gave him a blue robe. To lounge,
to recover. Recover. But it was July in the heat of summer
when I was a nurse in South Pacific. That’s when he got sick.
Or became sick. When he spent long nights in the basement,
magnifying quartz, pyrite, slices of mica. The cellar:
the coolest place on those sleepless nights, radio crackling,
the antennae unable to grab onto a station.
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