How we remember the dead

It is years since my father’s
come back to eat from a dish
of sweets laid on the counter,
to drink water out of a blue
plastic shot glass and wipe
his mouth on a paper napkin.

He used to drowse in the arm-
chair with the faded brown
upholstery, the pages of Time
or Life magazine fallen from
his hand. I’d wake to see him
seated at the foot of my bed,

trying to trim with scissors
the fingernail he lost in the war.
This could be a poem about ghosts,
or about what we keep wanting
to remember. I couldn’t tell you
the color of his clothes but I

still fix on the way all his
bottom teeth overlapped, like steps
to a ruined shrine at the top
of a hill. Or the color of his eyes,
ice-grey and cool like the air at dusk,
tinged with the smell of pine.

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