2015. november 26., csütörtök

Lou Lipsitz: My Father's Girlfriends

From time to time
        he slept with one who had
        what he called "real class,"
who knew how to dress.
Maybe she'd spent time in Europe
        and developed a taste for luxury.
She worked for some specialty store
and would watch cooly
as my father--
        stylish, darkly Mediterranean,
        recently manicured,
        the sleeves of his shirt
rolled up on his forearms,
colorful tie loosened---
         showed her the lastest in sportswear.
And then
         asked her to dinner,
         business of course (though
she understood).
         A sleek brunette, maybe,
with great legs.
         Next day, he'd send flowers
and a romantic note.
"Women," he told me,
         "crave attention."

From time to time, it
was a prostitute.
        Nothing tawdry,
not the tough whores he
        and his buddies used to drive
up to Albany for
when they were eighteen.
        Nothing extravagant
either. A small, neat West Side
apartment. Curtains in the bedroom
like home. She'd never
make him rush. He could take
        the full hour if he wanted to.
"They're the only
ones," he told me, "who really know
how to please a man."

But mostly, the women
were like him,
        Jews or Italians out
of Brooklyn or the Bronx, one step
from the ethnic ghettos, trying
        not to smell of pastrami
or spaghetti sauce, or talk
with an accent;
        dressed to kill, slick and ready
with a joke---good-looking, youthful
women who glanced in the mirror
        a lot and wore
fashionable clothes;
        were determined above all
        not to be old-fashioned;
who'd discovered quickly
        what marriage could offer,
and what it couldn't; who could
keep their mouths shut
        and not tell other people
        what they didn't need
to know anyway.
They liked to gamble, but
not too heavily.

The way I imagine it,
        only once in twenty-five years
did any woman come close.
        He was nearing fifty
and watching the gray make its steady advances
        like a disorganized guerilla army
through the countryside
        of his thinning hair.

She was fifteen years younger
from a department store in some
        small midwestern
town, and something
        about her shyness
cut way into him.
        They had sex twice, but he was
haunted. She never asked
for anything,
        and he was afraid he
couldn't forget her.
        He knew what it would mean
if this ever got out---
        what would happen to the family,
        what his sisters would say.
He wasn't someone
        to throw it all away
        on one spin of the wheel.
So he let it die out: watching TV, tossing
        the football with me
in the street.

Somewhere in his mid-fifties
he got friendly with a seamstress
        who worked in his shop---
        a motherly woman
with a sick husband.
They worked late.
and she made him dinner
        He gave her extra money,
quietly, just relaxed and
let it happen.
        Only his wife couldn't
see it. She was fond of saying
over and over:
        "Jack worships
the ground I walk on."

Sundays, twice a year, he and I
went to the cemetery where
        his father was buried.
We mumbled the
Hebrew prayer for the dead and,
        keeping with tradition,
put a small rock on the gravestone
to show we'd come.
        Usually, we went home
without a word,
but once, when I was twenty,
        I saw him wipe away tears,
and he started to talk about
my grandfather:
        "He was the sweetest guy.
Everybody loved him. But I'd hear
my mother yelling at him
in the back room.
        And he never yelled back.
Because everything
        she said was true:
        he ran around and gambled
and..." He stopped.
        "Just once
I wanted to hear him
yell back at her:
        "Yes, I"m foolish, but
you don't know me and you
never will."

Nincsenek megjegyzések:

Megjegyzés küldése