Everett Avenue Facing East

By David Gullette

I have spent years shying away from this poem
this poem in which I try to capture a single gesture of my father’s—

November 1967—a “berry aneurysm” has exploded in my brother’s skull
so I fly down to Raleigh and spend the night in the room
that became mine after our sister went off to college

Early next morning I hear the front door open and
go to the window
my father is leaving the house
I signal him to wait

We drive straight out Everett for the hospital
unspeaking
as we near Cameron Village the sun
peeks over the roof of Sears

And he takes his right hand off the wheel
and palm up lifts it toward the sun . . .

Even as I watch him I know there is more going on here than
“The world breaks our hearts and the indifferent sun simply
goes on doing what it has to”

More than
“So begins the first day without my younger son”

More than
“My older son is with me, together we bear witness to an iron law”

Dance is the art I know least
but I do love to watch a skilled dancer slowly revolve
and tilt his torso
and lift a hand to make a gesture toward the other dancer across the stage
and if you ask me to tell you what that hand is saying . . .

I was right to dread this poem


David Gullette was an early editor of Ploughshares, and is currently Literary Editor of the Poets’ Theatre in Boston, where he is working on a play about a poet who was a Roman Catholic missionary in Nicaragua and joined the Sandinista insurrection against Somoza.

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