A father is a night-watch, a patrolman — not every night, perhaps, but fairly often. Probably one got that way early on in parenthood when the babies were small and woke up wailing. And there are always the unusual noises as for instance when the burglar has broken in and your wife asks you in a hissy whisper to go investigate. The burglar has probably managed to abscond by the time you get to the living room; fortunately he has not managed to steal anything.
Then there are the times when, later on, you lie awake listening for your teen-age daughter or son (particularly daughter) to get home from a late date.
You stand waiting. You listen.
At your back the house is still,
between the tickings of clocks and timbers.
Beneath the rough soles of your feet
you can feel the cellar stretching to its foundations —
silence in the stone, the furnace brooding.
Shades are partly drawn against
the night. The panes are harder
than ice and as cold. Were you to touch them
they would shatter or seal you in.
The scent of dust is scattered in the air. The breathing
of the stairwell is a deep cascade. Now.
It will happen now: The knob
will turn, the tooth of the lock
take a strain in the cheek of the door where
it is set. You do not ask, “Who
is it?” It makes no mind; it is the wind of autumn,
the winterchase, the sky of change. The hours
flatten on the walls where you
have pinned them; you sense their weight
dragging in their frames against the wire.
A flake of plaster sifts onto
the carpet stretching like a lane of leaves along the
hall. You listen to the respiring rooms
where youth is dreaming age, where
aging sleeps. And you patrol,
you walk the hours listening to nibs scraping,
paper rattling, clocks marking. You
watch the knobs revolve, the windows shake, and in the flue
you hear the cinders rustling to the grate.
Fearful Pleasures: The Complete Poems of Lewis Turco 1959-2007, www.StarCloudPress.com, 2007, ISBN 978-1-932842-19-5, jacketed cloth, $49.95; ISBN 978-1-932842-20-3, trade paperback, $32.95, 640 pages. ORDER FROM AMAZON.COM.