My Father Delivered Pizzas in Buffalo, NY

by Alexander Duringer



for most of my childhood. His clothes smelled
of chicken grease. His pockets jangled with change
he’d count out on busted, peeled-paint plank porches 
where Christmas lights drooped into May 
down streets netted through the Old First Ward. 
My bowl-cut smile earned a few extra tips
on ride-alongs. The city’s empty

grain elevators corroded in the sun as we drove 
along Lake Erie. His left arm dangled from
the driver’s window & browned deeper 
than the rust. To put me to sleep 

after Vanna White waved goodnight 
he played Barber’s adagio for strings 
& narrated a story of three men 
who climbed Mt. Denali within a bone
white storm. The snow put its pillow 
over the Northern Lights’ green face 
as the men’s prayers to St. Jude 

were lost, lost. He gave me 
his high cholesterol & almond eyes. 
He gave me the Lisa Frank art kit I found 
in the crafts section of Wal-Mart.  
A case of pastels adorned with a rainbow 
pegasus I used to draw school crushes 
with 12-pack abs on sheets of 8 x 11. 
Practiced the art of love on their bright 
mouths. I’d stash them in the crack 

between my bed & the wall. At dinner 
he’d tell tall tales over my mother’s Betty
Crocker casseroles about the day’s customers:
a guy on Eggert with more kids than fingers 
& he had eleven fingers. A woman who made 
a pilgrimage to the Yukon for a shot 
of Caribou Crossing & a donated toe. 
They call the cops if you swallow, 
he said, and I guess she tried. He heard 

the knife’s dirt wind before it tore the sleeve 
of his Bills sweatshirt. Eight times it landed 
to empty him like a strung-up pig head. 
His blood painted the night & the moon 
kept its light off. I found polaroids 

taken by my mother when I emptied 
her underwear drawer. His belly. 
His back. Each pinned like a map 
for my finger to trace along the thief’s 
route that led to the double pepperoni & $37 
in my father’s wallet. But he didn’t
get the cash, dad said over a Budweiser’s 
snap. He pushed the man’s face

into a streetlamp & drove himself 
to Buffalo General. The same hospital 
where he’d refused to cut the umbilical 
cord linking my mother and I. 
He asked the doctor, What the hell 
do I pay you for?


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