BLACK CROWS, MINTS, GUM, LUCKY STRIKES
On the Northway
I expect towns like Famine and Burnt Hills just before Saratoga; the cruise control jerking the Buick forward, pacing the roofing truck blowing a dirty snow of asphalt bits, old tiles piled in back. I flinch when grains strike the windshield, my attention still thin in the gravities of North, the poems read at Clarkson U. Words swirling into the eye like soot. Like boyhood. The more I rub, the worse it gets. Streaked vision. A haggard grin. My father clutching the paper bag filled with Black Crows, mints, gum, Lucky Strikes. In his Memorial Hospital in the middle of Welfare Island, he tilts, and tankers leak past on the East River, the Queensboro Bridge sags a dowager’s black lace. Words seep outward from a mildewed wall. His cane grabs an inch of floor and I follow in his wake, and he sways, as if still behind the wheel of his cement truck: redi-mix of broken youth, too much grit—like that 19th-Century stuff dug up on the far end of the island; old City Hospital a tumble of gray stones where he was first bedded, doves flown from his vacant mouth: his right hand forever asleep within mine; the driver of the roofing truck all smiles, waving me past.