Is man no more than this?
From twelve floors up, looking across the roofs,
we get a glimpse of Jersey, glimpse of Hudson,
evening sky. Window wide open. Breeze.
My folks—my mother’s ninety-three and blind,
my father’s ninety-five and crippled—sit
by the window, eating quietly. Below,
there is a tiny park, with benches, trees,
places to hide and seek, jump rope.
From time to time, a block away on Broadway,
the number one train—elevated here—
rattles along toward Harlem and the Heights.
The neighborhood is pleasantly supplied:
boutiques with produce lavishly displayed,
a bakery, a liquor store with decent French.
So life’s okay.
In here, it’s winding down.
And as I hand my parents food, or try
to tell them once again what day it is,
or when their next appointments are, or why—
for the hundredth time—they shouldn’t feel depressed,
I can’t help wondering just what this life
is meant to be about.
It’s Father’s Day.
I bring the cake, uncork the special bottle,
and so we sit and have dessert. From time
to time, my mother takes my hand. “It is
so comforting,” she says, “to have you here.”
I pour some more Vouvray. My father wipes
the buttercream from his glazed lips, and lifts
his glass, and sips. My mother talks of books
she wants to read when she gets back her sight.
I don’t say anything. I pour more wine.
And all at once, my father, still a priest,
sings out, full voice, snatches of evensong,
“Lord, open thou our lips, and let our mouths
show forth thy praise.” And then sits quietly.
We hear the sounds of children’s games outside.
It’s almost dusk. The subway rumbles north.