I can’t imagine, on this autumn morning,
ever waiting with my father
on cold corners for school buses,
much less hugging him
goodbye as I do my daughter.
(O lucky, lucky bus
to get to enfold her body
into your own.)
Seems like everybody does it
these days, even jocks.
That kid there, as tall, hugs
his old man, and gets hugged
Only as he lay dying
did he reach
for my hand.
After the bus leaves,
I walk back home alone, along a path
already white with frost.
My niece and her husband lived
in what they called a double-wide,
but what I call a trailer, plopped down
as if by tornado on red dirt
in the middle of loblolly pines.
Though she’d had a good home
and good schooling, she still chose
to marry him, and live amidst
his many third-place motocross trophies.
And so I thought, well,
that’s it then.
But when their baby came
I had to see this child
because she bore the blood
of my only sister who’d died young.
So I flew down to Birmingham
and drove two hours towards
“Alabama’s Renaissance City”
just to hold her all Saturday afternoon
on a battered couch, watching Batman.
At three I helped him cook “supper,”
watched as he stacked coals, sprayed
lighter fluid, lit them, sprayed more
lighter fluid on the conflagration as I
inched my ass farther up the back steps
so that maybe I wouldn’t die in the explosion,
only be maimed, disfigured,
but maybe worth it to incinerate
the idiotic father.
But he brought the “burgers” in safely,
and though I tried to douse the gasoline taste
with ketchup, mustard, onions,
it did no good, and so I ate the raw
and napalmed meat for her, the way
Petrarch kept writing his poems
for Laura even after she was dead,
the way Dante, his love taken
by the slow fire of decay,
fed forever after on the flames.
Will Greenway’s eleventh collection, Selected Poems, was the Poetry Book of the Year Award winner from FutureCycle Press, and his tenth collection, Everywhere at Once, won the Poetry Book of the Year Award from the Ohio Library Association, as did his eighth collection, Ascending Order. The latter two are from the University of Akron Press Poetry Series. His work has appeared in Poetry, American Poetry Review, Southern Review, Georgia Review, Southern Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, and Shenandoah. His awards include the Helen and Laura Krout Memorial Poetry Award, the Larry Levis Editors’ Prize from Missouri Review, the Open Voice Poetry Award from The Writer’s Voice, the State Street Press Chapbook Competition, an Ohio Arts Council Grant, an Academy of American Poets Prize, and he has been named Georgia Author of the Year. He is Distinguished Professor of English Emeritus at Youngstown State University.