After a Sunday breakfast in 1967,
older son asked how old was I
when my father left my mother.
Well I’m seven.
And I had to agree because I knew he was seven.
So no father lived with you when you were seven.
So you don’t know how to be a father
for someone who is seven.
I have studied how to be a father.
He was too young to understand the lessons
I had from the fathers of mine;
movie stars, priests, a neighbor, and an employer.
Jimmy Stewart, Robert Young, William Holden,
Father David, J.D. Whiteside, and Sol Wachovsky,
among others, and they were
my fathers more than Einar Axel.
More lessons came from mother’s other children,
younger than I,
and from textbooks with long titles;
too much for a seven year-old
for Sunday breakfast.
Einar Axel was gone from our home,
me at five years,
and from then on appeared,
drove up and honked his horn out front,
and off just he and I would go
to a movie or a museum or a White Sox game,
four or five times a year,
because from Chicago’s north to south and back
And then he was gone forever,
me at thirteen years.
Mother said you’ve lost your father.
And his oldest child knew him only
at movies and museums and a White Sox game,
but knew not his counsel
for life’s decisions,
and was to always be uncertain of his love.