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