My Father's Hometown, 20 Years After His Death

By Clara Silverstein

I don't know my way down Quarrier or Kanawa,
streets he circled on his two-wheeler, the route
to his old home a thicket of intersections,
no one there, anyway,
living room a travel agency.

If a clerk were keeping Sunday hours,
I would ask for a map of my father's heart,
trace the switchbacks to the spot
where the arteries dead-ended,
and I was left kicking slush
on my way home from school,
whiskers from his morning shave
still in the sink, his body at the morgue.

The concrete steps on the porch are ordinary
as milk in glass bottles, for years
dropped off indifferently, the family
reading the Gazette at the breakfast table,
no place for me then, no place for me now,
coal barges making their way downriver,
mountains cragged against the clouds,
each car a flash of chrome winding through.