He said we need an honest talk:
His wife, my own mother,
for Christ’s sake, didn’t know it all.
For a man sadder than most,
my father knew his way around a joke.
He wanted me to know about the money—
The Walowitz millions? I inquired.
Don’t waste time with your jokes, he said.
It was beautiful outside
so I wouldn’t indulge his inclination
toward the grave.
I’m leaving, I said.
But could you leave me a couple of bucks?
and his face fell—and don’t tell your mother.
He was empty when I left.
My father collected his empties,
beneath the basement stair
to measure the damage done in a day.
These were passed down to me.
Now when someone offers a quarter
for a long-spent Hiram Walker,
I shake it out of habit and desire,
in case something’s at the bottom,
my lost estate, or any piece of my father
trying, this time, to hang on.