July 1st, the Saturday
before Independence Day at the hall.
My son wanted to buy fireworks
to play with at the children's fair.
Noon time came with its teacupped sunlight
and steaming table cloth of summer.
But still he sprang, feet clanging like cans
till I smiled at them, in their shoelaced glee.
All I wanted was a cool drink,
maybe a beer and a few magazines.
So we drove down to the supermarket,
bought a pack for twenty,
You'll be seeing these for years to come!"
And I guess, what would have happened
If I had colored in the lines instead?
My son, now twenty, lives life with
a surly disposition. Quite
unlike the boy, who bought fireworks
with me at the supermarket
swimming in the summer breeze.
If you showed him a toy from childhood's
more innocent hours, he would slap it
right out of your hands, call you
And I admit
it was my fault.
But not some big
that television dads do
all the time, the actual act
really nothing more than
an eventful fashioning on a
daytime cable network lineup.
in half-hour time.
It was not like that.
You didn’t hate me then.
It was the small, uneventful tragedies.
The tiniest heartache.
Disappointments so small
to see them pile slowly like used
matches in a browning bucket of water
that hasn't been changed
since last July.
What if I played house, like I was supposed to?
Would he still sit next to me at my daughter's
Playskool Pret-Tea Pink Table?
Dressed up in her favorite pink gown,
a summer hat, and beads
twirling on his shoulder, this
little cross-dresser pouting
as I chortled coffee from a miniature doll cup
and braided hair, like I was
Suppose I was there for him
Suppose my father,
was there for me.
Would he have loved me like I loved my son?
Would he love me in twenty years, like my father never did?
In my mind, the two of you are one and the same,
the leather jacket, the hard eyes,
the shame you felt toward me
the only gay man in our family.
When evening comes, we'll sit on the hill.
Memories of his four-year-old self
trailing sparks like a glorious birthday cake,
all candles and balloons.
Together, we'll watch the display
light up the sky of the 4th of July.
Thousand-Star rockets blend
a memory of color
that I'll be seeing
even now in twenty years.
My son glowing red, white, and
I stand up watching him return
to his car, pass the parking lot,
I stand up
on the same hill we once played.
(you and I)
The mother mirage
fading in like globed bursts
in the swiftly darkening sky.
I stand here, wondering
had I not defaulted
like a rocket without a fuse,
spinning wildly in the air,
feeling just barely out of control
shouldn't I just explode
in a haze of light and smoke.
Shouldn't I have been equipped to burn?
I stand alone
with you and many
on my mind,
the beautiful wreckage of our lives.