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Gallery, Lackwanna, NY

Inside his apartment
he’s lived again
lives of his family,
unintelligible kin,
whose faces matted behind
cheap glass look almost blessed
in this half-life of pictures.

Great grandfather,
whose wooden leg,
carved good, my father
said, from Russian birch,

stands heroically atop the television.
Before he sailed
to Canada, marauders
sacked his lumber mill.
Who’d guess one night
those trees would burst
and squall like black
snow, the fortune
wrecked?

Above the old one, my grandparents look
down;
caught timidly in this
black and white, they
knew of death. He drank
too much, a politician
who sold his house for
dust and booze. And she,
Parkinson’s much worse,
then all the twitching
stopped. Andy’s there,
her favorite son, in 1944,
the handsomest sailor
Lackawanna ever saw.
Afterward, fifteen years
locked up in his fever,
in and out of the vets’
psychiatric wing.
(My father wept.)

I’m beside my brother,
beside his wife and kids
who wear tidy clothes
of the stylish times.
And before us all, like
a worshiper our father
sits, divorced, far
into decline.

Outside the fires
of Bethlehem burn, black
smoke rising like the choked
breath of generations, this
human turning, irretrievable.