A native of Johnstown, NY, I've lived in Ripon, WI for the past 28 years, where I teach literature and writing at Ripon College. I've published six collections of poetry, including Stutter Monk and Second Wind; I also co-edited (with Kate Sontag) the essay anthology After Confession: Poetry as Confession. Essays, reviews, and individual poems have appeared widely, both in print and online. In recent years I've spent nearly as much time on photography as poetry. A gallery of my work is online here: http://instagram.com/doctorjazz
George A. Graham (1921-2007)
Elegy for My Father on What Would Have Been His 94th Birthday
I always thought he'd keep walking
stiffly but steadily enough right down
the bright hallways of his nineties,
a dapper old gent, slightly deaf,
but with that same gentle, puckish humor
and wide-eyed interest in the whole
unfolding world. On the phone
we would talk of nothing much, weather
up his way, trouble he had getting
the car to start the other day,
a good article he saw somewhere
that made him think of me. My
father on that phone would let me
speak at length, almost never interrupt.
So I don't know when he hung up,
exactly. Maybe he just fell asleep
as he later would all the time,
his mind leaking slowly as air
from a tire. I'd like to ask him about
that, but as it happens, I've been
talking, talking to the air for years.
I know this spot though I haven't seen it
in forty years: at town line, where Medlick
runs to dirt in a wide turn-out for plows
and school buses. Know it because it's
beyond the last streetlight and thus famous
to generations of high schoolers parking
after the game, or a dance, or just after
a night throwing burgers on the grill
at Buddy's. Woods on one side, cat-tail marsh
on the other. And a Deer Crossing sign
older than God. Did we ever wonder who
peppered it with shot and started rust
at all the holes? Did we think he could
still be alive, perhaps working at
the Holiday Inn, or the Ford dealership,
or if that wild-haired boy has departed
for good, dead in Columbus after his early
heart attack, or possibly moved to Arizona
where he plays golf and dotes on
his four grandchildren as he never did
his own two sons? And few of the kids
parked here now on a Saturday night,
pushing their curfews right to the limit,
swigging warmish beers and imagining hard,
will ever imagine who among them
was conceived right here at this bend
right before Medlick becomes Indian Trail
for its journey through corn fields and
cow pastures all the way to the Thruway.
Some things are lost forever, dead as the deer
that appeared in their grandmothers'
headlights like apparitions and were struck
by either the drunken bumpers of cars
or the equally deadly fogs still rising
from that long-vanished swamp.
Evelyn Gets It Right
Phone rings, and it's my girlfriend, Evelyn,
whose voice I don't recognize,
but she seems cheery and bright
and quite sure I'm Don, her boyfriend,
so maybe it's true. By her voice
she seems old, older than me, anyhow,
and that seems about right—
any girlfriend I'd completely forgotten
would likely be older, probably retired
with a lot of time on her hands.
But still, I'm sort of shy, so I say I think
she may have the wrong number,
but she laughs outright at the thought.
"You know better than that!" she yelps,
and it's true. I do. Evelyn's got
my number, I'll admit it, and besides,
I'm eager now to hear what's on her mind,
and when might I see her again.
It's a crazy life, I tell Evelyn, and she
snorts: "You got that right, Mister!"
—and I begin to recall why I like her so much.
©2015 David Graham