Nocturnal – For My Father

You used to leave the light on,
for Mom, her security,
but especially for late-nighters.

We would tiptoe inside.
Grab the extra key
from the plastic utility drawer,
last on the bottom right.
Slide the key into the lock.
Slowly open the door to whatever
wrath of yours might await.

Sometimes, we pulled out Rice Chex,
craving a bowl of cereal
to coat the stomach after chasing beers.

You would wake from repose in the den,
always a den, as if you stayed hidden,

remind us to turn off the lights
when we went to bed.
The night-light over kitchen desk stayed lit,
as did the Virgin Mary lamp
on the stand outside your bedroom door.

That first Fall you moved near me,
I would steer past,
glance towards your fourth-floor apartment
– where you would be sleeping
– where you would watch football games.
Lights from the second room, christened “den,”
would be shining
on the path towards my home.
I drove that route on purpose
comforted by signals you were calling.

Now I look up, beyond the gas station glow.
Your studio has gone dark.
I cleaned out that room,
gave away couches,
flicked off the kitchen switch.
I carried out the aluminum lamp
that lit your den those years.
Even without current,
its afterglow would lead me home.


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