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Every afternoon I sit on the curb

in front of our house and listen to the cars, 

neighborhood fathers coming home after work.

The rattle of my dad’s “purple people eater” 

always beats his 67’ Fairlane around the corner.

I know he isn’t coming home,

still, I listen and wait, while


inside, mother stares at the kitchen table,

a tissue in one hand, a scotch in the other.

Months earlier, dad left for Thailand.

A car waited outside while I pressed 

my lucky buckeye into his palm,

and promised to  help take care of mother.  

He hugged us, then disappeared.


Each night, I warm T.V. dinners, clean up, 

and help mother to bed. Before I go to sleep,

I color in a square on the Air Force

calendar dad gave me, and

count the days til he’ll be home. 


That spring, when the assistant golf-pro

stops by with tamales his wife has made,

mother invites him in.

The next morning she seems different – 

happier, more alive.

He shows up the next weekend

and helps with yard work.

He mows, rakes, and clears away the debris

covering the first blossoms of bleeding hearts.


He becames a regular at our house,

and mother needs me less and less.

Hungry, I bang on her bedroom door, 

and ask when she’ll be ready for dinner.


Another day blackened, I wait on the curb,  

think about dad, sleeping with a pistol and 

a buckeye under his pillow, 

and swear at the desperate darkness

that shakes our house.

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