Poem

Ninety

for My Father

That diminutive old man in the exhibit, leaning in

to get a better look at Rembrandt’s face in his self-portrait at the Metropolitan

or the floating blue of Monet’s lilies in the Orangerie in Paris

or Giorgione’s painting of his aged mother in the Accademia in Venice,

that stroller by the Seine, the Grand Canal, the Hudson, in khaki pants and jacket,

that passerby seen only from behind as he moves through crowds we share,

still at ease in the world though stooped and slowed by age,

that elderly man who stops to buy the newspaper and then resumes his walk,

who stops then at the boulangerie for his baguette and shambles on

to sip his first espresso standing with his back to me,

that citizen whose steady onward step pulls me along as if on some invisible wire,

belongs as surely as I do to this moment or as little,

luring me across the years with sightings so precise

that even now they catch me unaware

so that, like someone in a dream or mesmerized,

only after I’ve followed him from street to street, over bridges, along rivers,

when at last he turns a corner and I glimpse his silhouette,

only then do I feel the jolt beneath my feet:

it’s someone else’s father in your clothes, another man in your misshapen shoes,

another seeker after art and love and truth

vanishing instead of you just up ahead.