The old man pauses in his walk
to press the bloodbeat of his wrist
among these low-slung homes
which, for sixty years,
have accreted powerboats and
cinderblock retaining walls
in honor of the human urge to alter.
A rare rain hits the sidewalk,
raising an aerosol to his sinuses
of settled dust and streptomyces,
tugging some stray synapse of the mind.
He sees them, postwar fathers, back again,
who haunted every Saturday garage,
planing 2x4s to steal an hour alone
awakened in the firethorn,
up from the deadleafed ground.
Visible through shirt-collars,
the autumn berries of the hedge,
the marrow running liquid in their bones.
Shadows in car-coats and four-in-hands,
samelike as they were when still alive,
crowd round to show off trains and soapbox cars,
all the wonders they’ve constructed for their sons
from the ruins of a busted roller skate.
Then evaporate with the limp shower
until the next foreshortened Inland Empire rain.
About the AuthorRay Nayler is a diplomat with the U.S. Department of State, posted to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Over the past decade, he has lived and worked in Moscow, many of the Central Asian republics, and in Afghanistan. Ray has work upcoming in the Beloit Poetry Journal and in Sentence: A Journal of Prose Poetics.