fathers couldnt read or write silently
children were ordered to read to themselves.
You must keep to yourself, my father told me
as we drove out from Saginaw Harbor toward the other ocean.
His words sounded nothing like Bolingbrook, Arcadia,
Funks Grove, Eureka then Stanton,
Gray Summit, Groom, Tucumcari
all the towns on Route 66 that led us
west to a new beginning.
spent his nights
in a room he called his study
with not even the voices of a radio
to push back the burr of cicadas in the trees.
He must have heard someone speaking to him
in that small place
though he left it to me
to find a language common to the boys
of Our Lady of the Cross.
What the eye sees the heart can only endure,
there is no escaping Original Sin.
This lesson was rapped across my knuckles each week.
Still the game cat kills because it is hungry.
It needs no book to translate
the spring of its claw into action.
I spent my
afternoons washing plates
earned a few dollars and waited
for someone to explain me to me.
The other staff had their versions
of how men take women,
of the proper way to bet.
These stories stood in for knowledge.
My fathers door stay closed.
After work, I passed many nights watching
sidewalks, the people going
somewhere, anywhere, not here.