Pops

You liked sitting in the last pew,

The one with blue-cushioned chairs,

From which there was a clear view

Of a high stained-glass window

And the anguished face of our Lord on the cross

Gazing down at all of us.

 

I spent my childhood at your home:

Summers swimming in your pool,

Bare feet cool on your grassy lawn,

Picking hawkweed and dandelions–

Bursts of yellow and orange life–

Which sprouted near the old stone wall

That ran along your property line.

 

Your lawn was enclosed on all sides by trees–

Oaks, pines, white birch, blueberries–

Which sheltered us in their generous shade.

 

In fall, the oaks turned red as flames

Then one-by-one they dropped their leaves,

Which you always raked into one big heap

So my siblings and I could take turns

Burying each other inside,

The leaves now brown and autumn-sharp,

Smelling like the woods on Halloween,

And burst out screaming “Here I come!”,

A game we called “Dead Man Walking.”

 

You died when I was just sixteen

Of a heart attack,

At the hospital, almost all

The ones who loved you

By your side.

Except for me–

I was traveling

Between England and Ireland

When my mom,

Your only daughter,

Called two days later

To say

“Honey, Pops died.”

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