by Robert W. Greene

for my mother

His forehead felt like sea ice
to the crash-dive brush of my lips.

Mother, kneeling, kissed him on the
mouth, in adieu to foundered love,
I guess, or to block some final snort.

More than once, in a rage, his nostrils
had breathed fire across our bridge.

We crewmen, jaws seared, just froze,
repaired amidships to tease things out.

Father or big brother, I don't know.

Like a Kayak
for my wife

Floods in breakneck confluence crest
here on this drenched October Paris day.

With summer long past, it's a kick to pound
the pavement, to vault merging gutter streams
the way grade-school girls skip rope.

After all these years, nothing has changed
along streets I run like rapids, where,
heart unmoored, spilling over the cobbles,
I careen again listening for "Yes! Yes!"

As worn as the facades I graze, I swell with hope
while I wait for our plot to refloat like a kayak,
for your saga to swerve in step with mine.

I know what happens next. Sheer bliss
jumps in. My pace gets swamped by yours.

Frame and Home
for my brothers

Dull border, vast indifferent baffle
to our every gasp, it's always there,
as sure to show as those later dates,
the ones left blank, on family tombs.

Or like the scaffolding from which we
heave the twelve-foot walking planks.

My partner, a lifer at this trade,
more than twice my age, never tires
never wheezes, grabs an edge in stride.

At lunch I wonder: Can I bend and
wrench enough to free another board?

Thank God it's not our job to tear
apart the steel-pipe latticework;
we only lift and jettison the wood
where the bricklayers and glaziers stood.

Our work-day finally ends just when,
by a miracle, one whole side stands bare
of lumber. A tall gray skeleton remains,
the still, half-noticed frame and home
of our every step and breath all day.

Above My Bowl
for my sisters

Amidst the fine-tuned cracks, snug against
my groaning walnut board, I smile, respond
and start again to sip my cool gaspacho.

I'm among posters, Basilica to my nape,
doorways of Fitzwilliam Square en face,
dining between fair Dublin and Montmartre.

Suddenly Mary tumbles through my gaze,
diving into Mother's chowder, not to
be late for drama club at Sacred Heart.

The repartee, wine-warmed and sly, leaves
me colder than this dish I've come to savor.

Before she sank in Calvary's frosted turf,
she talked a blue streak, even in her sleep,
and always left the table pigtails flying.

Eternally unsaid, her final exit line
tonight clouds up the air above my bowl.

Some day I'll scrawl the book on Beckett,
Dubliner duckling hatched Parisian swan.

But there, across, below Fitzwilliam Square,
she peers past my stare at Sacré Coeur.

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