Lodestar Quarterly

Lodestar Quarterly
Figure reaching for a star Issue 14 • Summer 2005 • Poetry

For the Fathers on 24th St.

Paul Rueckhaus

They call you
irresponsible, irreverent.
A man will put his penis anywhere
with no consequences of overpopulation
exhausting social services
No concept of what it takes to raise a family in America"

I have been watching you
peeking around the covers of magazines
on cramped city busses
In the periphery of my gaze
as I kneel down to flirt with your toddlers

Your wrists are strained
from heavy carriages

You are professional Peek-a-boo players
at bus stops and
Ga-ga-goobers at open-air fruit stands

Only your magic
kisses can soothe the ya-yas and boo-boos --
the consequences of cold concrete curbs

Your small children avert their eyes
from strange street faces to return their
admiration to the mustaches and
sturdy shoulders that
secure them.

You know 80 ways to carry a child

I witness on my morning walk up 24th St. today
the look of children who know they are taken care of
is seen on each of these 12 blocks

They giggle at crazy city people
chasing after busses
brushing through crowds to
fly down subway stairwells

They do not open their eyes
to the rigs and broken liquor bottles
their Daddies' mindful steps

Their slumber is not disturbed
by the passing conversations
that say, The barrio is no place
to raise a child

In their dreams
they know their fathers
are proving them wrong.

As I briskly walk these mission sidewalks
my blabbering thoughts
are taking up
so much space
I need to make room

for the slow young man
walking toward me
his infant
resting at his bosom.

Paul Rueckhaus won the 1997 Haiku contest in the Weekly Alibi of Albuquerque, New Mexico. In 1998, he was the intern for the Albuquerque Poetry Festival. He has taught poetry and literature at the San Francisco County Jail and is currently working on a children's book.

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