We stopped late in Swift Current. There was hardly anyone out both because of the weather, as well as the time. We found a small motel called the Florentine, that had a reasonable rate, and as far as we could tell, we would be the only patrons this night. We both fell into our separate beds, neither one desiring to move but knowing that we smelled as foul as the onion fields out back. I took my shower first, being careful not to use all the shampoo in the test tubes provided. By the time Papa J had started his shower I had fallen into a deep sleep.
I heard an echo in my mind…
It traveled beyond time and reason…
I had heard the words before, spoken to many people. I felt my heart break...
Where did they come from and why…
Send a postcard of Time Square
At night, alive, under the lights
Walking silent, hand in hand
For fear when the mosquito bites
The honey suckle hunter
Lies languid in his love
Crying under a full moon’s eye
Kissing a postcard of Time Square.
His ragged clothes are worn for memories
In a dead weed field
After the summer solstace
He crouches out of sight as he cries
His cries unheard
Taken by midnight winds
He has no one to send these to
Or he would
With the postcard of Time Square
Muddied feet lift his tired bones
Through his shame and guilt
What was his failure?
Why is he torn?
Why did he choose to walk in fields alone?
His frail heart cracks with exasperated tones
He searches the land
In a forgotten time
With a remembrance of a love so fair
Which led him to this lonely crime
But now, forgive him
For he is gone
With his postcard of Time Square
My father’s voice spoke these words.
I cannot remember when or where this happened, but it was a long time ago, at some sort of family function. My uncles had had a few too many, and the hours had wandered into the early morning. The atmosphere got to that point where nostalgia makes an appearance. They all took turns regaling stories of their youth. But they all sat silent as my father read a poem he had written when he sailed into New York city for the first time. He had a one-day leave to see the city, and he and his sailing buddies hit the town. He would tell us of the majesty of the skyline, and the beauty of the buildings. But he also said that like any good fruit that was left to it self, it had a bruised under belly that was often ignored. They passed by many people who begged, not just for money, but for food, and for drugs. They played music, they sat silent, they screamed, and some rationalized. But my father remembered one young man who ran across the busy streets of Broadway at Time Square, being chased by a shop owner. He had stolen a postcard, and as he passed by my father and his friends, their eyes met.
He said he had never seen pain more evident in a human being. His soul was lost, and all he could say was
“She’s gone, she’s gone.”
My father was haunted by this event for the rest of his life. He wrote this simple poem more for the therapy than for the inspiration. I had memorized the verse when I fell upon it years later when sorting through old boxes.
Tonight, with the storm raging outside, and a stranger/best friend as my companion, I lay motionless, trembling with my father’s voice in my mind. Feeling pain and hurt. Why did he have to die?
Why was I supposed to hear him like this? I felt as alone as that young man did.
Where was my postcard?
Where was my father?
Lightening struck close.
It struck very close.
Where was my father?
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