Dispatches

I was taught to use a cocktail shaker,

whiskey sour mix from a small envelope 

whiskey, ice, the cover with a spring around the edge.

The silver shaker,

frosted,

the drink sat on the counter 

ready as he came home.

 

My father taught me to write checks 

while he spread out on the dining table paying bills.

Had I asked?

A large plastic-covered checkbook, three pads of yellow checks, 

one below the other.

We balanced the checkbook,

It had to come within fifty cents of what the bank said.

 

As an adult I balanced my checkbook every month, 

saving money-machine receipts 

which I stuffed in my wallet, till the seams grew holes

never got that fifty cents balance.

ever, no matter how much I tried.

So I stopped altogether after two years.

 

During the school year he worked, wrote, threw baseballs to me and my brother.

In August, at the beach for the entire month

he read spy novels, 

played tennis, flew kites.

Lit his pipe by draping a towel around his head 

to block the wind.

Everything stuffed

in the black leather shoulder bag he called his “purse”.

White creases in his belly where he did not tan; 

his stomach folded up from hours

spent in a beach chair.

 

In the summer he taught me to fly a kite.

We sent a message up the string

It was piece of newsprint torn in a jagged square, 

which somehow went around the handle.

The wind sent the message up, whipping it in a circle around the string.

Eventually it disappeared.

What was this message? 

written in someone else’s words?

Why “message”? 

What was its urgency?

 

My father created makeshift offices in our basement, and in the summer rental

where he wrote,

wringing the time from his days.

Taught me to mix a cocktail, 

to balance a checkbook,

to find the time to write.

 

How to send messages up the kite, 

up to heavens every day,

With never any hope of a response.