A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
In the Polaroid, they stand back-to-back, smiling
in the yard behind the row house where she grew
up. Their bellies are equally gibbous: Mom at eight
months pregnant with my sister; Pop six years into
retirement from the force, at a six pack or more a day.
He holds a can of Budweiser in one hand and a spatula
in the other. The grill smokes behind them by the chain
link fence. Behemoth oaks loom in the woods across
the alley, festooned lush domes harboring shadows
soft and dark on a Saturday afternoon. It is 1974.
Seven years before she’d leave us, our family is still
growing. I am three, playing somewhere off-camera
with my father, whose beard is still young and brown,
his legs fleet, his arms strong, his body whole. Now
the photo’s color fades, its edges yellowed, my sister
weathered by three bad husbands, Pop’s gut gone to ashes,
my mother tremored by Parkinson’s a day’s drive away.
Now the house on Cold Spring Lane sits dark at midday;
the legion of oaks across the back alley have long-since
fallen to apartments. But a family lived there once, fat
and swelling, where promise glinted brightly off the blade
of a steel spatula, success was an ice chest crammed
with beer on the back porch, and the future punched
at the womb, hungry for burgers about to be flipped.
Copyright 2019 Matt Hohner