Inventing Father In Las Vegas
If I could see nothing but the smoke From the tip of his cigar, I would know everything About the years before the war. If his face were halved by shadow I would know This was a street where an EATS sign trembled And a Greek served coffee black as a dog's eye. If I could see nothing but his wrist I would know About the slot machine and I could reconstruct The weak chin and ruin of his youth, the summer My father was a gypsy with oiled hair sleeping In a Murphy bed and practicing clairvoyance. I could fill his vast Packard with showgirls And keep him forever among the difficult buttons Of the bodice, among the rustling of their names, Miss Christina, Miss Lorraine. I could put his money in my pocket and wearing memory's black fedora With the condoms hidden in the hatband The damp cigar between my teeth, I could become the young man who always got sentimental About London especially in Las Vegas with its single bridge- So ridiculously tender--leaning across the river To watch the starlight's soft explosions. If I could trace the two veins that crossed His temple, I would know what drove him To this godforsaken place, I would keep him forever Remote from war--like the come-hither tip of his lit cigar Or the harvest moon, that gold planet, remote and pure American.
From Hotel Fiesta by Lynn Emanuel, published by the University of Illinois Press. Copyright © 1984. Used with permission.