Lip-Synching for My Father
Poem by Judy Altura
My father chased me down our
half moon street, height of summer afternoon;
neighbors porched in bentwood chairs
reading the Sunday papers; small kids playing
stickball up against the red brick stoops.
Mrs. Marvin watering her roses.
Everybody wondering what Ralph was up to
this time. Chasing that girl of his,
intrepid girl, tearing up her shoeless feet
racing her father’s foul-mouthed tongue.
The story was that someone
broke into The Buick overnight,
and in his broken mind my father thought it was
my clingy clothes, luring bad boys to
the neighborhood in tight black pants,
to break into his Buick.
I didn’t tell him it was Buddy, pale as rain,
who broke into the Buick late that Saturday.
Buddy of the wounded heart because I
I danced with someone from another team.
Pale as the moon Buddy.
But not as bright:
If a stranger honked his horn behind
my sweetheart’s yellow beetle, shouting,
Buddy, move that heap. The light is green,
he’d wonder how the fella new his name.
I thought I could fly all the way from
Brooklyn to Boston University that day,
fast-forward to freshman year.
So what of half-clipped wings.
The breadth of boundless spirit would launch
and carry me above the New York skyline;
tailwinds, gracewinds, coasting this
young dark bird down onto the Charles River,
not a feather askew on her curly plume.
Pity to have my breath run out;
to round the corner back to
to find my father worn and older,
fading into pock-marked kitchen walls
with a cup of Sanka in a shaky hand,
looking sad and so ashamed,
I knew I’d have to sing for him.
Not sing, really, but lip-sync
to a tune he liked
by Dinah Washington playing on the radio.
Judy Altura retired to Sonoma with her husband in 1996 following a 30-year career as a trial attorney in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a mother, grandmother, published poet, painter, occasional mediator of legal issues and constant mediator of all things familial.