My Father Drives Me to Amherst
by Bill Tremblay


by Bill Tremblay

He knew the poet recited a verse

at the inauguration, but wants to know

how much he got paid. Or was it,

like every time a working stiff gets screwed,

pour l’honneur? This from a man who dreamed

of getting rich betting on horses. I try to

explain what I think my job is: to listen for

the names of the living who pass time and put

them with the families to whom they belong.

You think you can live on what you imagine?

he asks as he navigates the winding road

between West Brookfield and Ware. I sit

beside him like a one-legged sparrow.

Beyond the next hill I imagine a secret place

where he can never die. At last we enter

the campus. I slip into the back row

and hear the poet brush off his critics

like snow clumps fallen on his shoulder.

A death wish, he chuckles. He doesn’t count

the years of ice, the bitten prayers, candles

snuffed at dawn, the sudden blood of wayward

saw-blades, blizzards of crumpled paper filling

his kitchen waste-basket. Another day is

dawning, so dazzling our red eyes will sing.

My father stands outside smoking Pall Malls,

reading horses’ names in The Racing Form.

I listen to an old man sing about a strange

brook with rocks that fling white water

back to the source of everything.