Sins of the Fathers
My brother drove the chipping car. It was
The Buick my parents bought for him.
Or let him drive around the county. I guess
The difference is someone’s philosophy.
Since we were rolling (legally) through,
Ask anybody, South Jersey, right here,
Sun faded paint and choking 1990 Buick,
Memory’s vague two-lanes, he drove
Past every liquor store that ever threw
Us out. We never could explain the blue
To the perfectly skin. And that cheap smell?
My brother drove away the nerves
To Woodbury, the life, the cobwebbed elephant
Rampant no one dares climb anymore.
Like the Diving Horse, The Steel Pier,
The jaguar head tattoo and the violence,
We’re suffering for our father’s goonish sins.
Oh Jay, every move we make, we stretch
The teeth of the past, that’s why we run
So fast and get so far behind the shark.
You went for help, when burning phosphorous,
Between the union and the crank, you went
To your father with girlfriend and stolen truck,
And it wasn’t enough, he crushed light
Between his fingers and cocked to put
You down. Everyone I know wants
To put you down, but nobody can. Not you.
Not us. Between the ballpark and the church
We fried everything from leather jackets
To Navigators, from Johnny Specks
To forbidden autopsies on nasty cotton,
Our birth, fringe pain, the old bone punch . . .
It would be easy, Jay, for turning lemon grass,
Since kings and fools have flipped us off,
Cold cards. The bullets went south,
And left us listless here with hands
And faces in our hands, the broken tears
We get from feeling the streets of Philly—
Napoleon Street, where they caught you,
While I polished off one fifth after another
Here in Houston, Texas, center of a drink.
Oh Jay, just try to explain, we’re both the same,
The cold in tears, the broken faces,
Liquor closet picked open apocalypse,
The heart of sadness. The time I saw our father
Was 1971, and I was thirteen. Lucky number—
He looked my mirror, and disappeared,
Pellucid tears, proud of us—it was easy.
So Jay, here are the keys, you drive, the two lanes
Black and blue, the bruises of the wind,
Satan’s roller coaster. Outside these county roads,
The pull of left and right, cornfields and suburbs,
We crawled up Buena Vista, spit out mystery
Since manners elude Ezekiels, rude shadows
And the archeology of prostitution, transparent
Childhood, engine grinding sorrow and shame.
You can’t outrun yourself, the manuals say.
We put the gas and brake to the floor, shot
Nowhere, the two-lanes on a loop. Blood
Wheels, the quarry closed to murder’s traffic . . .
And that girl’s body found beneath the boards.
Her sister, your friend, happy hour from hell,
A Dirty Martini and second Black and Tan
Entertain us—while the Seventies screech Route 45.
Sins of the Fathers is about my visit to my brother in New Jersey, and a drive around our old running grounds of adolescence. Our father was, for much of his life, a violent man and a union goon, and the legacy of this continues to haunt our family and our vision of our past and place. The murder alluded to at the end was realthe body of a friend of ours from youth was found under the boardwalk at the shore. Bloodshed haunts my brother and me in very twisted ways.
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