Milwaukee Father

Revision:

Milwaukee Father

In Statistics I thought of my high school
English teacher. He was younger, in Milwaukee, walking down East Pleasant St.,
stopping in the Armoury Gallery to pass a rainy afternoon.
He enjoyed the paintings but the mobiles made him tired
and he soon left. The walkway on the bridge was empty, so he spread his arms across the railing
and watched the water climb up the concrete wall and slide back down.
He thought of the paintings
but had no one to share them with, so he caught the next bus home.

I thought of him years older, as he exited the doors of the Milwaukee Times
weekly newspaper. He wanted to cure his appetite for reading the philosophy books
in the Milwaukee Public Library, ripping out the pages where Kierkegaard taught him existentialist thought, so he took up a reporting job, writing about museums and new restaurants,
and when he pressed his finger to the Times elevator’s button 9, the ink left
a fingerprint, a sign he was there.
It was in the University of Wisconsin when he was first beginning to love
literature, when he was first beginning to spend weekend nights over a friend’s
discussing Neruda, or in his own room, reading all of the poems
but the ones he was assigned. The first time he met the girl who would become his wife
and mother of two daughters, he wore a green button-up shirt and mumbled,
couldn’t say the word “foliage” correctly.

It was lunchtime, and I saw he had brought one daughter to school.
He took her to the cafeteria and they sat at a table next to mine.
When they left the lunchroom he was holding her hand,
or she was holding his. He led her through the senior art gallery, answering all her questions
and smiling when she picked out her favorite piece.

In Literature while he discussed a short story he picked out for us,
one from a World Lit. anthology, not the anthology of “dead white guys”
he said the school wanted us to read, his daughter doodled with markers
on a piece of notebook paper I had ripped out for her. I yearned to be a part of them,
to walk with my dad, his hand in mine, a father
like my English teacher is to his daughters, a father who cares
if he upsets them with his screams, his insufferable symptom of chronic anger.
I took the bus home and thought of them, together,
opened the door, noticed the black fingerprints I left on the knob, leftover residue
from the newspapers I had distributed to the school, that morning,
the only connection I can ever have
with my English teacher, his daughters, and him as a father.

***

Milwaukee Times

I dreamt of my high school
English teacher, last night. He was younger,
in Milwaukee, walking down East Pleasant St.,
stopping in the Armoury Gallery to pass a rainy afternoon.
He enjoyed the paintings but
the mobiles made him tired
and he soon left.
The walkway on the bridge was empty
so he groped the railing and his umbrella and watched the water
climb up the concrete wall and slide back down.
He thought of the paintings but
couldn’t share, so he caught the next bus home.
Years later, he exited the doors of the Milwaukee
Times weekly newspaper, and when he pressed
his finger to the elevator’s button 9, the ink left
a fingerprint, a sign he was there.
It was in the University of Milwaukee
when he was first beginning to love
literature, when he was first beginning to
scribble poetry and angst-ridden
declarations about life on scraps of paper.  The first time he met
the girl who would become his wife
and mother of two daughters,
he wore a green button-up shirt and mumbled,
couldn’t say the word “foliage” correctly.
When he brought one daughter to school,
“Take Your Daughter (now, Child) to Work Day,”
he took her to the cafeteria and they sat
at a table next to mine.  He opened her ice cream wrapper,
for her.  When they left the lunchroom
he was holding her hand,
or she was holding his.  In literature class
while he discussed a short story he picked out for us,
one from a World Lit. anthology, not the anthology of
“dead white guys,” he said the school wanted us to read,
his daughter doodled with markers on a piece of notebook paper
I had ripped out for her.

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