(from A Field Guide to the Heavens)

My stepfather coming home
from the wharves to draw his unemployment
and smoke Pall Malls in the sagging
overstuffed wing-chair, cheeks softening
with a beard that grew brindled now,
his life getting on, going nowhere,
sometimes a listless game of checkers
that I never wanted to play with him,
but mostly his drinking coffee from
a chipped bowl and brooding and sending
me once a week down to the boats
with a bucket to ask the luckier men
for flounder and haddock, and always
their wind-darkened faces staring
away from me at the wet decks
as they hoisted the brimming bucket back,
those weeks of fish and eggs and onions
and only cold water running in the taps,
the sun never getting above the line
of the woodshed roof, starlings flapping
down to croak on the crusty backyard snow,
the dank walls muttering to one another
when they thought no one listened, hats
and scarves awake on a nail by the door,
but nothing to dress for and no place to go.



More Poems from A Field Guide to the Heavens:

The Tree
When Lilacs