Perry S. Nicholas
I am an Associate Professor of English at Erie Community College North in Buffalo, N.Y. I have 5 books, 2 chapbooks, and 1 CD of poetry. I am married to Maria Sebastian, a well-known singer/songwriter, and we perform our poetry and music together at many venues in the WNY area. For more information please visit my website: www.perrynicholas.com
Editor's Note: I asked Perry for some background information about these poems. He wrote:
ANOTHER CIGARETTE WITH FATHER: I have written a series of "visit to the cemetery" poems about parents, mostly my father. I smoke when I go so he can smell the smoke, having given smoking up years before he died. This time I went shortly after a house fire Maria and I had in our apartment. (My dad was electrocuted in a construction accident before I was born, adding to the "smoke" idea.)
DON'T WORRY: inspired by a conversation I had with one of my students, who told me she was doing heroin. WATCHING OVER ME: When I was in the hospital with a heart problem recently, I believe my mother, who passed away in 1999, was sitting behind the headboard watching, but not speaking.
Another Cigarette with Father
Father, we just survived an apartment fire.
The first thing I craved was a cigarette,
shaking in wet dress shoes here before you.
It forced us to do some re-arranging,
and I stumbled upon these transcripts
of your accident trial in 1950.
Reading your clipped, charred words
made me weep at what I didn’t know.
When you accidentally brushed against
an electrified beam, the current carried
you halfway into another cosmos.
It zigzagged down from left hand
to left heel without mercy.
This is how I’d report it:
My father climbed a ladder after lunch.
My father was doing a kid a favor.
And my old man, electrocuted and torched,
first begged the paramedics for a cigarette.
Some flames last longer now than ever.
Everything seems to be burning these days.
The couple down the street killed by their stove.
How do we make our mind’s ashes stop smoldering?
How did you go on, enveloped in smoke, unafraid?
My father, I’m here to have one last drag with you.
You need to teach me how to put out my fires.
I’m begging for your help to stop smoking.
Every time I look at you now,
I see a needle sliding up
your stick-like arm, your eyes rolling
back through scenes of your short stay.
You say, don’t worry about me,
but who could help but wince?
It’s my job, your practice.
You chatter faster and faster
while I get shorter of breath.
You’re sure you’ll be back, and I’m not.
The difference in age talking.
Watching Over Me
Mother, I’m almost scared to death
that I—and nothing—matters any more.
While you perched in my hospital room
for five nights without saying a word,
I turned into a birdman of sorts,
making loud, squeaky sounds,
flying so high no friends heard.
I lost some faith there, too.
Overseeing the gauges and wires,
you hunched over my bed
like a lookout in its nest,
a sphinx over the desert.
But you never let out a peep,
never even apologized for your silence.
©2016 Perry S. Nicholas