By: Alex Bernstein
I’m on his shoulders. We’re at the beach. Playing in sawdust. Smiling in the ambiance of sweet nectarine sounds. Lapping on orange jungle gyms, in Batesville offices, and on spinning chairs. Sidelines at little league games with his white hat.
I searched through old files, cooped in the back of the garage – numbers, organized by month and year, bills dating back to 1987, investment strategies, baby books, and more pictures.
In the bushes on Summerville.
The car not parallel, door wide open, and still running,
I lost my glasses this morning…and I… I thought… I…what am I trying to say.
Bright blue eyes and marble haze.
We didn’t say anything. I parked my car,
then parked his while he curdled on the curb.
A week later, the DMV took his license away. No more chop shop strip-downs. No tire and oil changes. No car control. He never left the house. He ceased to exhibit affection for my mother. He gently became like a child, gazing at the sun with handfuls of grass.
My father wakes up to spend hours in the garden. He grooms and caresses his daisies, the apple tree, the ruffled pink petals of lilacs in bloom, the willow’s leafy arch. He tends to their needs. I invited him to a movie, once. He declined because he saw overgrown shrubs in the garden.
Standing still, I watch from the windowsill.
I see him trim our trees for summer.
Ornamented branches with a Taoist finesse.
Pods and stems reaching with rejuvenation.
My mother tells me about him. How he built a house in Vermont. How he cared unconditionally. How he led an investment-banking association on the weekends.
She told me.
In the corner, he sits in a bright Santa Clause hat on Christmas morning
China dolls in wrapping paper.
Mother’s red nightgown.
Blue checkered white pajama bottoms. Mine.
I know inside, he cares
but doesn’t remember.
I search for moments and memories and glimpses of a past that once moved me. It’s always a constant search to return to that moment, to that pristine sensation, and the fact that it’s so difficult to discover what my mind has no recollection of is an awful feeling.
Only photographs of jungle gyms and sidelines.
Memories under a sycamore shade.
I see my father,
the white troubadour,
a simple daisy in the garden,
blooming in a pool of grace,
with fresh breath,
and I can do nothing but melt
like the pane of glass over a whisky fire.
Frustration in my father ripples through the crevices of me, the cracks that run through the pores of my mother’s skin, the grout that lines the tile floor in our kitchen, where Italian recipes books—spaghetti, meatballs, chicken parmesan—are piled high on the counter top.
There is no conversation between us,
the dinner table—silent,
he doesn’t speak much anymore,
mother’s fed up with trying to fill in his sentences.
Handfuls of grass. A twisting warmth—the mix of emotions, the push and pull of clashing ironies. His inability to function in a fast-paced society. His fresh and organic view in and of the garden.
His song swirls me humbly,
shows me a deeper sense of meaning—
peace singed souls in the eternal emptiness of a starry, starry night.
I sometimes split into a shadow—
a hasty attempt to classify myself
apart of the convention,
Then—there is the illumination of his ambiance, of the glowing sounds that resonate from the center most part of his chest, while keeping him, us, in the fading confusion. The gray days behind him, the bright ones ahead of me, and our love, unknown, spiraling like vortexes upon mountaintops, compassionately a struggle.
I am the arch of the willow tree.
Mossy overhangs. Tears. Inexplicable warmth.
A shrub his lyre hangs from.
The garden, a cultivation of simplicity, is the present tune.
A myriad image of him glimmering in wind, standing over roses and pink lilacs.
The daisies reaching up to his opal hands.