Bill Byham

In keeping with the whole death thing, here’s a poem I wrote about my grandfather a couple of years ago. It’s one of two things I wrote during grad school that I still like.

It was my aunt, not my mother, who crashed through the glass porch door when she was a kid, and I don’t really know what day of the week Papa laid the driveway. Other than that, it all pretty much happened. And I still miss him.

BILL BYHAM

Apples bobbed against your eyelids, small and sick
in the back of the station wagon. The hand mirror
ridiculous next to you, hard hospice and donut smell,
upholstery in last decade’s microdot. Since when
were you this animal. Hands wrinkled to fur.

Face always the same leather: irrigated,
dug with wheel tracks, cracked with sun.
And the occasional glint that creeps into the eye.
While your wife looked for scissors to cut your hair,
you stole cigarettes from your grown son’s drawer.

You forgot the faded square in your jeans had long gone
empty. You looked out windows, on apple blossoms
that fell from the sky and the cars passing on Route 5
at the end of the long gravel drive you laid
one sunny Tuesday.  You went behind the barn

to stick your feet in the mud and the rotting bushels.
Your wife strained her back lifting you into bed.
The parlor, most winters closed off to its chilly
white sleep, this room you never sat in
with coffee and crumb cake. Now she hates to leave it.

This proliferation of fern, stiff couch,
and the stainless steel bed beside the grand piano.
Whole rooms your grandchildren won’t look into
as they climb the stairs. And the butterscotch candy
you left in the cabinet—may the ants take them,

sticky in July. Nothing’s ever complete.
The sun fogs the wire window screen, inside the glass
door my mother ran through in solid shimmering
when she was twelve, through glass and sky
and catalpa, into this most perfect of worlds.

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