“Pa,” “Land mark” and “Dark night”

“Pa,” “Land mark” and “Dark night”


Drive Chronicles Avenue straight out

of downtown for three miles to the

railroad bridge, empty as a Roman

ruin, turn right toward the spray-paint

chaos of the Grass Lake rocks, right

again onto Esther Road, to 135, and

there’s tight-wound Pa sitting on the

dusk porch while nervous fireflies,

trespassers, skitter, knowing nothing

else, around the maypole of his chair.

From time to time, he slaps out with

a grimed 1940’s-gas station flyswatter,

and, when he connects, steps daintily on

the stunned creature with the sole of his

right boot, drags that sole toward him

along the porch wood, leaving, godlike,

quick-dying sparkle. We keep out of his way.

Stolid Ma encases herself in jobs to be

done as if rest is a gap in breathing.

Her grave is out on 12th Street, just east

of Mystic Boulevard, in the plot she shares

with Pa as she shared their bed of relief.

Pa died slowly, silently, from a wasting,

pale as smoke, fearful even more of death

than of life, with no caressing god to

provide welcome, just a blank white he’d

glimpse here and there, now and then,

and shudder, lock up inward. No escape.

Garden of Eden Groceries, the family firm,

still opens and closes each day, weekends

included, Christmas excepted. Pa ran a tight

ship, each an assigned post: sister, brother,

niece, nephew, in-law, cousin, crowd of

vague similar faces: Jane-Joan-June-Jean,

Garry-Larry-Gerry-Joe. Everyone’s head turned.

Ma wanted me out of there, oldest and

a girl. Pa had an eye. I was the one sent

out from the store each day to travel up

and down Babylon City, buying what we

needed, arranging deliveries to Holy Galilee

Hospital, the Tyre County Department of

Corrections and City Hall where Pa knew

a guy in the Sewer Department who gave

a filing job to Leah, a year younger than

me — Ma’s idea again — which Pa used for

inside information about street work, bids

and free bricks until, after Pa and Ma were

dead and gone, she quit and took the same

job for a lawyer across the street on the

6th floor of Maccabees Tower and hated

it just as much until one noon, while I was

sitting on the bank of the Babylon River

seven blocks away, she took herself up

to the roof and jumped her freedom flight

of wonder-filled license to the downtown

pavement in front of three teenagers

from west suburban El Dorado.

“Lot of good it did her,” said Father

George, the youngest of the boys, a John

Paul II priest, quickly shushed by the sisters

who knew proper etiquette. No pedophile,

he — too empty for lust. I slapped him.

Now, evenings, if you drive to Esther

Road, you’ll find me on the dusk porch in

Pa’s old chair. I leave the lightning bugs

alone. Leah whispers in my ear, but I can’t

burn the house down. Where would I live?

It is the last Sunday of Ordinary Time.

Land mark

I can take you to

the cement in front

of the school by the

alley and have you

put your finger into

the mark there, the

permanent lines of

hopscotch, and you

will see generations

of children bouncing

on a single foot at

start, reaching at

end, double feet,

sky blue, but you

will not spot the

shades of three


innocents, unprisoned

for this moment,

leashless, at large

— the girl Mary,

three, sharp bangs,

check shirt; the boy

David, four, white

t-shirted, gray

dungarees, soft trust

smile; the boy Patrick,

five, already tall —

still whirling their

tuneless black-and

-white child dance

over the hopscotch

lines as if movement,

joy, hand-holding,

magnetic lock,

gentle touch will

last forever.

Dark night

Supermarket produce

man (think lonely uncle)

in Subway afternoon

Sunday with gray-jacket

guy (uncle only noticed

in photos: Was he there?)

nervously, comfortably

noodling Dark Night of the

Soul, and extraordinary

means, and pulling out the

weighty a/c unit alone,

and Zacchaeus, tax man,



A bond on the margin.

Maybe defrocked.

Maybe brothered.

Maybe high-schooled,

colleged, first-jobbed.

Maybe study-grouped,



Maybe it’s twelve

steps home for one

and, for the other,

biking to Rosehill

Cemetery to braille

crossed stones and

dollhouse funereal


Maybe just

keeping busy.

I busy myself.

About the Author

Patrick T. Reardon

Patrick T. Reardon is the author of fourteen books, including the poetry collections Requiem for David (Silver Birch), Darkness on the Face of the Deep (Kelsay), The Lost Tribes (Grey Book), Let the Baby Sleep (In Case of Emergency) and Salt of the Earth: Doubts and Faith (Kelsay). His memoir in prose poems Puddin’: The Autobiography of a Baby was published by Third World Press with an introduction by Haki Madhubuti. For 32 years, Reardon was a Chicago Tribune reporter. His history book, The Loop: The “L” Tracks That Shaped and Saved Chicago was published by Southern Illinois University Press.

Read more work by Patrick T. Reardon.