On the corner

of a street

on the Lower East Side of Manhattan

I lay my hand on the sidewalk

just to see if there was any echo of you, Father

          (Mom still refers to you as Daddy -

                   though that is not a word

                   accessible to me). 

An old Latino man asks for change.

Two Oriental women hurry past -

          shopping bags filled with eccentric vegetables.

I feel the rumble of the IRT,

smell the exhaust of an idling Yellow cab,

but there is no reverberation of your courtship with my mother

          as you walked these streets together,

          no scent of the bougainvillea placed in her hair

          as you paused and shyly kissed. 

Nor further north on the West Side, could I sense the rumble

                    of your incensed anger

          as you stormed from Grandfather Henry's

          indefatigable judgment of you.

Nor could I feel your sinuous fingers

          grasping the easel

          and tracing with the expression

                   of transcendental emotion

          the soul of your model to the thin paper,

when I stood in the National Academy where you studied. 


at your grave, Father,

in the corner by the oaks

of the cemetery in Pennsylvania,

I ask the grass

          that is all that remains of you -

          to tell me something

          that might some day compel me

          to call you


R.S. Russell