In Seattle, in 1982, my mother beholds this man
boarding the bus, the one she’s already
turning into my father. His style (if you can
call it that): disarming disregard—a loud
Hawaiian-print shirt and knee-high tube socks
that reach up the deep tone of his legs,
toward the dizzying orange of running shorts.
Outside, the gray city blocks lurch
past wet windows, as he starts his shy sway
down the aisle. Months will pass
before he shatters his ankle during a Navy drill,
the service discharging him back into the everyday
teeth of the world. Two of four kids will arrive
before he meets the friend who teaches him
the art of rooing and, soon after, the crack pipe—
the attention it takes to manage either
without destroying the hands. The air brakes gasp
as he approaches my mother’s row,
each failed rehab and jail sentence still
decades off in the distance. So much waits
in the fabulous folds of tomorrow.
And my mother, who will take twenty years
to burn out her love for him, hesitates a moment
before making room beside her—the striking
brown face, poised above her head, smiling.
My mother will blame all that happens,
both good and bad, on this smile, which glows now,
ready to consume half of everything it gives.