Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


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.

Credit


From Hotel Fiesta by Lynn Emanuel, published by the University of Illinois Press. Copyright © 1984. Used with permission.

Author


Lynn Emanuel

Born in Mt. Kisco, New York, in 1949, Lynn Emanuel is the author of several books of poetry, including The Nerve of It: Poems New and Selected, winner of the 2016 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, andThen, Suddenly—, which was awarded the 1999 Eric Matthieu King Award.

Date Published: 1984-01-01

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/inventing-father-las-vegas