Every day the freight trains
that ran behind our house
filled the rooms with noise
so loud we stopped talking,
paused in the center of sentences,
waiting to go on. We all did this,
even my father, drunk and slurring,
when he told us we had to choose
who we’d live with, our mother
or him, knowing we’d choose
Mom, but hoping against sense
we wouldn’t. The train rumbled by
as he lifted his drink and waited
to finish telling us to choose.
Later, when we chose our mother,
he wept, pouring himself
another drink, sitting there
until a new train chugged by,
so thunderous the windows shook,
as my father lifted his glass
to toast its regular arrival,
its fast, predestined leaving.
THE DOOR ON PRINCETON AVENUE
In through that door walked Uncle Teddy.
In through that door danced Aunt Edna.
My mother left through that door
and my father, drunk, tottered through it.
Mornings that door was the first I touched
and the last I touched in the evening.
All my relatives entered that door.
Every friend too, can you believe it?
We lived on the second of three floors.
We had no chimney, the windows were high.
If Santa came, then he came through that door.
Easter Bunny too. When Jesus returned
to whisk us to heaven, he’d hover
with miracle sandals through that door.
News back then didn’t come over the phone,
or the internet, when someone died
kin crashed through that door to tell us.
One day when I was five I walked in that door
and one day I was fourteen and walked out.
We moved. We moved and left that door behind.
Yet I remember running through the apartment
to answer a knock, my hand on the cool knob,
feeling like I need only twist open that door
and the whole mystery of the world
would reveal itself and be mine forever.
That was a long time ago. Ages and ages.
Uncle Teddy dead. Aunt Edna dead. Dad too.
Mom barely holds on in a small trailer in Florida.
I haven’t seen that door now in almost thirty years.
Now some stranger is closing that door.
Now someone I never met is locking it.
fiction poetry "fact" photography