Poem By Hugh Cobb
(for my father)
I remember you
in magic lantern flickers,
shades of grey:
train windows flashing by...
arrivals & departures.
Late summer nights & days:
Friday night fights
(brought to you by Gillette)
a smell of cigarettes & whiskey...
Lying on your chest,
your beard scratching my
child's face, puffy cheeks turning red...
I inhaled as though your scent
could appease your absences.
In blue cast TV light you seemed like
I didn't want to wake
to the familiar ache
of your vacancy.
I knew one morning I'd blink
& you'd be gone -
leaving behind only ashes
& a smell of smoke...
You never seemed to know
how much I wanted you to stay;
to be present in more than yellowed photographs
or in the diamond sharp relief
of memory. I often pretended,
using memory as a guide,
that you were really here with me.
Imagination so vivid I would run
to meet you when I heard the front door
but it was never you. A let down even
in my dreams.
In between arrivals & departures
there are moments of our
walks to the store for cigarettes & sodas,
passing Lake Olmstead pausing to skip stones
over waters as opaque as our relationship...
Sensing undercurrents deep beneath
the rippling surface, we stood on the bank
father & son in tempus lost:
(Our relationship, too skipping time:
years sometimes between hops...)
gutterballs & strikes at the neighborhood lanes...
Moments passed like the click & flash
of a photo until you boarded a
returning to your world,
a place where I must have been the dream
as you were a dream figure in mine.
Whistle blew, steam vented
beneath iron wheels.
Train pulled away
leaving me on the platform
a child of memories
learning once more to believe in ghosts.