For my son, Dillon (March 8, 1979–August 2, 2013)
©2020 by Jack A. Urquhart
Yesterday in a coffee shop,
in an incidence of unabashed affection,
I saw a man lean to plant a kiss
atop his preteen son’s head.
The kid was a sturdy chap,
mop topped, sporting baggy shorts.
He made me think of you at twelve,
and how flush-faced in your reaction
to public displays of parental ardor,
you stirred physically away,
moved by simultaneous outbreaks
of adolescent embarrassment,
(lest, God forbid, a peer had witnessed
the parental faux pas)
and a flickering, begrudging gratitude
in your ambivalent smile.
It was not the first time in your absence
that I’ve witnessed this scene.
Not the first time the locks
on the backwaters of my heart
swung unexpectedly open
pressed by seismic waves of grief.
Not the first time I’ve gasped
in the irreversible undertow
of a simple truth, that:
(a) You are no longer living; and
(b) by what right, then, am I?
Yesterday, in that coffee shop,
in that moment of overt paternal love,
I found myself drowning again.
And then (I’m not sure how),
a sudden resuscitation and rally;
the unexpected wherewithal
to reach shore again,
to channel your absence back
into the turgid pool frothing
at the center of my ongoing life;
somehow the will to remember that:
(a) your living sister, and my loving spouse,
own rights on my splintered heart; and
(b) my love—my imperfect love—
might still yield a measure of good,
a small oblation of comfort
to make in your memory?