A Welcome to America Party

I telephone to let my family know
we are back home in the States:
Our new daughter as awake as we are tired.
A voice replies saying Jamie is dead.

A daughter gained and a nephew lost.
Such is the dreadful economy
of fate.

I pace around the empty,
darkened hotel ballroom with a roaring tiger
of a girl cradled in my arms:
seven months old, fifteen pounds heavy—
all lung from the neck down, it seems.

She is no conflict of emotions, my daughter, she is distilled
rage pouring out at me for daring to believe
it is 11:00 p.m. instead of noon.
So we waltz.

Actually, I waltz.
She marches to John Philip Sousa—
heavy on the trumpets and piccolos.
Ignoring her counter-melody, I continue to waltz lightly
and sing her sweet songs.

The lighting is dim, the carpet plush. The chairs are waiting
at the side.  We walk mournfully in a slow circle
around the ballroom again and again.  My newly
American girl screams in the night at what she does not know.
I also do not know or understand.  I scream within.

Her purple-faced, curled-tongued fury becomes my own,
touches another pain.  My  voice is the echo of hers
off the walls of this hollow room.   I rage at other,
much darker forces than she can know.

I was at the baggage carousel, hunting
for two bags among so many—grab the handles
and draw up our store of memories
and treasure—waiting to be welcomed back home,
when you melted down the highway, Jamie,
parting from yourself.  Parting from us.

As your body cooled
we had little to declare.
Customs waved us on without a search.
Our girl was approved for permanent residency.
The tedium of ignorance.

Fourteen and foolish,
the last lost boy staggered into neverland
reeking of gasoline, gunpowder, and hormones—
walking wide-eyed as a deer

out of time, walking out
of night, walking past his blood
on the road. Walking with others he met
only in death.

I travel from dim light to dim light, again and again
in this room.  Each time my daughter’s face is
illuminated, then swallowed up in black.
She is beautiful, even in wild anger,
and I remember that face as I wait for the next light.

So far from what she has ever known, my girl grows limp.
Her wailing slackens to a light slumber,
interspersed with gasps and shudders that remember
her former torment.  Slowly she surrenders to the quiet—
like another young soul who raged his way to rest.


5 thoughts on “A Welcome to America Party

  1. Stunning. Reminds me that you and I have disagreed on the utter subjectivity of perception. Perhaps we met here where compassion holds court.

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