Not much, I say when my wife asks
if I think about loved ones gone to their graves.
She’s jolted with sorrow, she says, in a crowd
when her grandmother’s eyes revisit,
wearing a stranger’s smile. A common event
among big hearts wired for the warmth
of memorable connections. Makes me worry
I’m broken somewhere.
Across the room
an old duffer chats with the restaurant hostess
asking about her children. It’s the kindness
in his listening . . . which triggers me. His head
angled sympathetically a bit sidewise,
the generosity of the space and time he allots her
to go on and on.
Like Henry, as whitecaps
lifted and tossed our little boat. Dear Henry,
telling me later he couldn’t swim, braving the turbulence
to hike Wild Horse Island, trusting
my much younger hands at the helm as I blathered
about nothing worthwhile. Trekking all afternoon,
returning sunburned and ravenous, our wives scolding
our reckless daring. Henry gimping around the kitchen
on worse-than-ever bad knees, sipping his whiskey,
still calling me Sonny-Boy, claiming he’d outpaced me
up and down the hillsides . . . .
I’ll never forget, when our trail encountered head-on
a clan of bighorn sheep, how Henry put his hand on my shoulder
and set himself a little behind me — as the sheep filed past —
as if I might shield him, should something rough break loose,
or something right go suddenly wrong.