Elegy: Poem

Sometimes I go back in time to see my young parents before I was born.
We sit in pale yellow kitchens with orange drapes,
We drink Dixie beer from squat cans with pull tabs.
We eat fresh cherries from an avocado green bowl with black outlines of daisies.
We tip the ash from our Lucky Strikes,
our Marlboros, our Parliments,
into an enormous ashtray of sepia glass.
We smoke joints and talk about the oil crisis and Nixon.
We do not talk about Jimmy Carter or the Jim Jones massacre or the release of “Rumors”
because these things have not happened yet.
Those things happened the year I was born
and I don’t want be my parent’s child.
I want to be young with them for a little while,
young and browned from the sun, unshaven,
smelling faintly of essential oils.

My young father wears a Nehru jacket,
a Zapatista with sun-darkened skin,
and his unruly mop of black, black hair.
My mother wears no bra under her embroidered cotton shirt,
feet bare beneath the hem of her peasant skirt.
I watch her toes curl on the orange naugahyde cushion.
I watch the ash stick to a facet of the brown glass ashtray.
I watch the sweat gather on a can of Dixie.
And we are young together.

We talk of the things young people have always talked about,
never dreaming of the world to come,
with the shadow of death not yet darkening our eyes.


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