Mark McBride
Mark McBride
What Life Was

My father slid the needle into the groove,
and Hank Williams’ three-four-time croon
issued forth, syncopated by hiss and pop.

Dad loved the music but cursed the scratch
just as he loved Mother but cursed the crash
of dishes she’d throw to the kitchen floor.

After those fights I’d sometimes steal a bottle
of Seagram’s and Rory would drive us into the woods
where we would stand before his classic Chevrolet.

Once, Richard stepped in front of Rory,
and Rory said, his voice glazed in stoner reverie,
“Richard, I’m pissing on your foot.”  This was the best:

Richard cursing the streaming piss, dancing the Irish jig
while Rory held his steady smile as I lay
spread-out on the hood, in the foggy breeze of booze sleep.

Somewhere Mother zinged dishes and Dad damned
the unstoppable popping.  But I didn’t care.
We were lost in a darkness not even the stars could save.

Now, thirty years later, with my ear against the pillow,
I hear their murmurs, see their unrecognizable forms
cast in the scratchy resurrection of dream,

and wonder: Was that what life was?
Like sitting at the dinner table, like breathing,
this crease I circle back to?

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