Sketches of East of Here

I. Setting Out.

My brother is driving. I'm in the backseat at liberty to write. Dad, riding shotgun, shuffles through sheets of paper explaining stock valuations and physical therapy exercises.

The car is a 2015 Buick Lucerne with 62,000 miles on it and counting. Destination: Ludlow, Massachusetts, where my dad grew up, where he's from, where he still has family: his cousins, his aunt (who turns 88 in two days), his sister (who he hasn't seen in 25 years), his niece (likewise).

We left Belleville, Illinois, at 8 a.m. this morning, yours truly behind the wheel. Football (a.k.a. soccer) streams on satellite radio, channel 157, the European Championship tournament. This is the first round of the tournament, dubbed group play. Earlier, Russia knocked off Finland. Now, it's Turkey and Wales.

It's been awhile since I've been in a car's backseat. I'm enjoying it; it feels like a luxury. Like I'm flying on an airplane. What else is there to do but to read, to write? To describe, to explain, to tell?

At the first rest stop, my dad pointed at some new socks he was wearing.

"What do you think of these?" he asked...

Click to continue with my account of traveling by car to Ludlow, MA with my dad and brother to visit family there...

Line for Billy

How are we gonna
heat our house this winter?
One mourner has a stove
but it eats a lot of wood, he says,
standing in a line
barely any light left and ten degrees
behind an IGA
and no place for parking.
A great loss…
A great tragedy…
He sold me mulch…
He sold me flowers…
He taught me how to hunt…
We hoisted one together.
We followed The Dead.
Here we all search for understanding
on our feet for how many hours
at this crowded Northfield funeral home.
It’s not like trying to find a lost watch.
It’s not like re-building a house.
We know the faces
          (but some of the names escape us…
He’s bearded,
no tie,
his hands folded for the Lord’s Prayer.
I can’t pretend I knew him
but plenty of other people did.
As I’m writing this a multitude pays its respects.
I’m sitting in a rental car drinking a beer.
For him, I say.
All’s I remember is the maroon Corvette
he couldn’t get started after JB’s funeral…

Continue with this poem...