Sometimes on a Saturday

Sometimes on a Saturday
I hear my long-dead father singing

Highball glass in hand -
he never drank Manhattans till the evening -
my father marshals us to order by the radio,
dark hair falling in his eyes,
Pall Mall half smoked between his fingers,
smoke curling up those long soft hands.

His hands were the pretty ones.
My mother’s, shorter, swollen-knuckled,
ironed shirts; he tapped invisible baton
against invisible conductor’s stand
while the orchestra tuned up.

Milton Cross describes the coming scene,
that voice I half believed was God’s:
“Butterfly tells her little son
how wonderful their lives will be
when Pinkerton returns.”
We quiet as the overture begins;
my father joins the aria, off-key and loud:
“Un bel di vedremo…..”

I have my mother’s sturdy hands,
short fingers, purple ropes of veins.
And, sad to say, I have my father’s voice.

Today, Christmas just a week away,
I scrub the kitchen floor tuned to the Met
and, elbow deep in soapy water,
I sing, off-key and loud,
about that lovely day,
the one that’s always coming,
the one just out of reach
except in dreams.

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