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?