Your father wakes, kisses the soft curve of your mother,
rises with faith in the man who will collect his garbage,
the woman who will deliver the mail. His America
was always a train whistle, the honor of going to work.
The sky’s light behind the mountain changes from red
to blue. He walks beside a Walmart and Starbucks—
those make-believe Americas. At 81, his shoulders hunch;
he forgets to look up—the way we all forget to look up.
Your father rests beside a river as wide as hope—gold
maple leaves roil and churn in the cold foam, floating
like the faraway war dead we forget as soon as the news
is quiet. America is that river, those golden leaves too.
On his porch, any old man in a Dodgers sweatshirt,
he stares back at the last century, unable to recognize
the one he walks through now. Across the driveway
his neighbor calls out, It’s warmer today, a little warmer.
The sky’s light behind the mountain—from Louise
The Best American Poetry 2008 p. 39