When I Want To Talk About My Father

The Liberal and Conservative
Who sit side-by-side in competitive
Camaraderie and the Independent
Who watches bemused, his
Irish-Catholic shared ancestry--
All their fathers and
Grandfathers stepped off the
Boat somewhere back
Then when we were all the
Same because we were poor of
My father and grandfathers
Passing thru' from Germany
And Scotland never declared
Politics--they drank as Germans
And Scotsmen do
Too bad people die.
The Conservative smiles at his
Liberal friend and orders a beer
For the Independent plus themselves--
Over in a dim corner scrawled
Like telephone numbers on a
Sweating wall their pearly fathers
And those fathers before, white
And the peeling wallpaper
Peers thru'.
My father walks in
In his dark-haired Teutonic
Stature, orders a bottle of Schnapps.
Vodka was more his style
He was a Conservative, I believe,
The three at the bar are agape.
Their fathers leave;
The newly dead so impudent!
And the Boston-Catholic Conservative
Sighs, handing a ten to the
Irish bartender
Suddenly the room is cold
And they leave as I wait
My father never told me
Whether he turned Right or Left,
Only he fell straight down
I am sixteen and too young for bars
Age kept me from asking
The important questions and I
Watch the three echelons of
Immigrant-American political thought
Wandering after the ghosts
Of their fathers