My father stands in the swimming pool of time
That cement sink in the backyard around which
Kids’ teeth were chipped as they scampered, dripping,
Mouths full of birthday cake, unheeding
All parental caution to slow down.
My father paints the steps to the swimming pool of time
Every spring, for the past twenty-eight springs, he applies coat
Upon coat, always the same eggshell blue but with a different dog
Serenely watching over him, six feet deep and sweating,
A salamander inside a monochrome fresco.
My father leans against a mop in the swimming pool of time
For his sons and daughter, now for his daughter’s daughters
Who hear nothing metaphoric in his quiet work –
The repetition and rhythm of brush- and broomstrokes –
Nothing major in the unambiguous songs of birds and jetplanes.
My father coils a garden hose in the swimming pool of time
Empties its deep end of acorns, mud and branches
And the fake plastic coins the girls went diving for but soon
Nearly seventy, every bit the skittish swimmer he was at ten, he stands
Above the drain, looking up, straight into the sun, then down again.
New Jersey. May 2011.