And so you find yourself walking with your father
along the waterfront.
So far you’ve only exchanged a few syllables.
And you know everything about your father
but imagine he’s come back
from a decade in a red light district,
too busy with STDs to pay more attention to you.
There are orphans everywhere,
even those with parents alive,
and there is trash everywhere,
and people pick up the trash
and throw it at each other.
And your father’s here,
but still he won’t talk,
though the sides of his mouth are moving a little.
You console yourself with the thought that he’s just one man
and his name would be Danny Boy in another life
because he’s always at war
but still has all those songs going through his head.
Twice a week, the garbage collectors come.
Every year, a useless Christmas is spent
with useless homecomings,
and you act like vampires in withdrawal.
The sides of his mouth say:
Your father is here.
Why can’t you talk to him?
And there’s a submarine now,
and who knows what it’s doing here,
but you both go on and take a tour.
Your father turns out to have a senior pass,
and, besides, it was so boring on land.
Strolling, you almost feel ready to tell him—
not about love, not about your vindictive art—
hell, you never knew what you wanted to tell him about—
and you still don’t—
but this evening you almost had it.
Did you want him to show you his footsteps
so you can change their direction?
Did you want him to remember your jokes?
Did you want him to mourn his own father better?
All you’ll remember are those wooden plaques
at the spots where the wounded sailors
had fallen during the war,
those painted-over splotches of blood on the walls,
your walls, your father’s walls.
You walk with your father through the submarine,
and you know it’s the last two hours of alone time
you’ll ever get with him—
even if he’s alive for many more years—
and somewhere between the deck and the captain’s quarters
he opens his mouth and tells you
of some helpful nurse,
some helpful everything,
of pictures of wild horses, of boating,
of chest pains, of chocolate chips.
And you walk alongside him and listen,
and you’re the only two people on the submarine,
and nothing in the world will distract you now.