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Published: Tue Jul 1 2008
Diego Isaias Hernández Méndez, Convertiendse en Characoteles / Sorcerers Changing into Their Animal Forms (detail), 2013, oil on canvas. Arte Maya Tz’utujil Collection.

after the strokes my father has plenty
of speech left but few words: “yes” “no” “OK”
spoken like a movie monster    the rest
is a stream of sound we can’t understand

still it’s clear he knows who his children are—
visiting one at a time we page through
old photo albums pointing out all our
former selves—does this help him remember?

at least he looks closely and seems to be
seeing us: the others on this floor of
the nursing home speak clearly but always
as if they were occupied somewhere else

it strikes me that I don’t look at photo
albums except here “that’s you Dad and your
kids:    me Iven Mary Susie Sara
there’s your mother    your sister Gloria”

I notice Sara at about twelve     arm
around Virginia my first wife    maybe
before the divorce that marriage did have
some sweetness to it    just look at her face

on an impulse I’ve brought my guitar “Dad
remember how we all sang together?”
“yes”    some of the residents clap along
I haven’t played in years    so why today?

then it strikes me that I may be the one
who needs to remember: hold the pick    pluck
and stroke—my voice unfamiliar:  “let the
Midnight Special shine its ever-loving light on me”

Dick Lourie’s previous poetry collections include Anima and Ghost Radio; his CD Ghost Radio Blues features both his poetry and his saxophone playing. His latest book, a collection of poems about the Mississippi Delta called If the Delta Was the Sea, was published by Hanging Loose Press in April 2009. (updated 7/2009)

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