Maybe it's the Jack-o-lantern cropping up
on the front porches all over town,
or the Oktoberfest signs swinging
from telephone poles,
but tears burned on your cheeks
and your voice like warm jelly
that fervent fall day still haunt me.
I was seated beside you,
three rows from the altar,
your hand quaking in mine.
Uncle Frank behind us, snickering
over a joke he liked on Facebook,
sounded like schizophrenia
above Aunt Grace's attempt to finally
solve the enigma “How sweet the sound?”
Tony and little Diane, annoyed
over missing Saturday-morning cartoons,
threaded like noisy needles through the pews,
no match for the organist.
Those who chose not to prolong
their agony fled before we departed
for the cemetery. We waited
together, alone among the headstones,
unfurling and aloof in the black-throated wind.
Elegy to PV
When last we spoke, at the Katonah Library reading,
you and Anne were still living in the little brown house
on Cedar Ledges, driving the Datsun we sold you for $500.
You signed a copy of The Curious Builder,
inquired about my parents,
and winced when I told you I was teaching seventh grade.
You were gone two years before I read about it
on the internet. Ann had sold the house
and moved in with your daughter,
who died a week before I stumbled
upon your obituary.
Once, you were just the lanky man
whose dyslexic son I tutored in ninth grade.
One would have expected to hear blank verse
every time you parted your lips,
yet you barely spoke beyond simple greetings
the few times you came in the summer to swim.
Now that I'm a poet, I try to imagine
you as I never knew:
energizing your Columbia classroom,
stentorian prowess packing the 92nd-Street Y,
sharing jokes and cigarettes with future poets laureate.
I have this impression of you peering
out your study window at the elm ballooning
over the front porch, collecting appropriate metaphors
to compare the Datsun's metastasizing rust
to the beast clotting deep in your chest,
limning an allegory about the untold miles
each pop-holed vessel journeys
before retiring to a corner of the oil-slicked driveway.
You cross the last “T”, dot the final “I”,
and secret it away in a drawer before
clicking off the lamp
and quickly slipping away.
Here: an Elegy
It's already been eleven months and we're still finding you amid the living.
First it was a condom slipped in a side compartment of the suitcase
we carried onto the flight home with your ashes;
then it was the fifty-dollar bill found folded in an old shirt pocket
moments before tying off the Good Will bag.
One morning we woke to Patrick--the nephew you never met--
bashing the living room floor with your drumsticks,
one of your ubiquitous ball caps low over his tiny eyebrows as you used to wear it.
Last month we got a message from one of your former students
asking to resume his lessons, and argued an hour
about how we should respond, as you or as the truth.
You might be pleased to know we found your i-Pod in a dresser drawer.
Those tracks you laid down with the band included with The Beatles and Miles Davis
will never be deleted. I play them while walking my usual route by the river
and imagine I'm in your living room in Albuquerque listening
to you recount recording sessions like an old weathered rocker,
bemoaning your mortgage and the night shifts that kept you from gigs.
I don't open your mail but feel guilty throwing it away,
half expecting you to call again Thanksgiving or Christmas day,
explaining it was all some cosmic misunderstanding,
thanks for taking care of things, but you'll take it from here,
as you disappear another half a year.
You're here, and here.
You're the dawn birds' aubade outside my window
and the church bells hanging in the valley.
You're the fog girding the mountain in an existential alphabet.
You're the bark from the golden retriever down the road,
and maybe even that sun pulsing eons above me I didn't notice until your first night gone.
Maybe you're all these things, maybe none, just a name
generated from synaptic processes responsible for our hubris.
More likely, you're staying as far away as possible, knowing how disingenuous
your time was here. I don't blame you. I would like to request,
however, that when it's my turn to transition, it's you who comes to ferry me across the river.
Ted Millar teaches English at Mahopac High School, and creative writing and poetry at his alma mater Marist College, from which he received his bachelor's degree in English in 1998. He holds a Master's degree in teaching from Manhattanville College. He is a husband, homeowner, and father of two children, all of which provide him with endless inspiration for his poetry (especially the children). He lives in Marlborough, New York, in the heart of the Hudson Valley's wine and apple country. His previous poems have appeared in Cactus Heart, Aji, Wordpool Press, Brickplight, The Artistic Muse, Chronogram, and Inkwell.