Sunday, June 17, 2007

father's day

Father's Day and my birthday are always within a few days of each other. Most of the years that I was growing up (though perhaps I should qualify that statement, as some might argue I have a ways to go in the growing up department, and should not consider the whole process a thing of the past), my dad and I would go out for a special "just the two of us" dinner, usually at Paul Ma's, our favorite and beloved Chinese restaurant in Yorktown Heights. I don't remember what we talked about, or what we wore, or what we ate, but I remember feeling so very close to him on those evenings out, and treasured those dinners beyond measure.

I wrote this a few years back, not in June, but rather in February, the dead of a very cold and gray winter, but woke up thinking about it this morning.

Mourning Rituals

I woke up at dawn and watched the clouds through uncurtained
windows grow rosy and fat before disappearing
across the river to the west.
I wanted to flee west too, join that
magic disappearing act.

I got up, fed the cats, made coffee (my evil witches brew), added milk.
I sat at the table listening to the radio mumbling in another room, the
baby next door, the commuter traffic on the West Side
Highway, the Henry Hudson Parkway --
multiple meanings, multiple lives, multiple histories in the
naming of names.

I relish the fact that I live
in a neighborhood named in commemoration of an early battle
wherein those red-coated Brits kicked the fledgling
revolutionaries' pretty white ass.
It's just so thrillingly un-American.

When my father died we received an American
flag from the United States military.
My mother, when she fled New York to return
to the western frontier of her birth,
took it with her.

The biggest American flag I have ever seen
waves gallantly through sleet and through snow
above the monolithic medical complex just
north of my apartment.

I dyed my hair again this morning. Plum. I have not
worn my natural hair color other than as peach fuzz, or the
growing out of peach fuzz,
since I was 14 years old. That was in
1991. My father was scared
I'd get cancer so I only used henna (that alfalfa-reeking
all-natural vegetable dye)
at first. I didn't start smoking until
1993. I smoked mainly American Spirits (those
"all-natural" cigarettes) at first
because I thought they'd be less likely to cause cancer,
but then there was a special on Marlboros
(2 for $4) so I switched.
Economic necessity always wins out.

If I lean far enough out my window I can see the river,
gray in early morning light, and I dream of
following it all the way to its source. A girl
I once loved, perhaps dreaming of flight, years later
leaned out too far and never came back.

I put on my mask this morning, the green eye
shadow the rosy lipstick the ivory powder
(always in that order).

I walked the five blocks to the train station.
The subway roaring out of that tunnel into the dim light of the
station platform seemed a fire-breathing demon and
I wanted to ride it all the way down to the
sea. Some times I imagine drowning
in those places where land and water meet.

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