At Night You Read to Me
BY JOSHUA RIVKIN
Once, you read the essay where the past is compared to a lighthouse as if we climb a metal staircase each year and can look down on our lives, the wild motion of days ordered into meaning. Years later, inside that spine of lightness, hours unwound into remembering, I can see the water glass beside the book on the nightstand a page you folded at its corner— little lighthouse, little sea— our happiness together. Except, I’ve got it wrong. You never read me the essay about the lighthouse. It was about a man who speaks too late to his father. Remembers crushing ice with the heavy spiral of a rolling pin. Feeding him broken chips. The cool. The hand. The mouth. If I write again about my father may my hands fall off, my tongue harden to obsidian. Or, give me the punishment of myths: my son will never speak to me, or he’ll speak to me in that tone, write every mistake, tell all I’ve done wrong and regret every word.
BY JOSHUA RIVKIN
Of art deco hotels he was a kind of expert—who died there, who slept there—a sly grin, a knowing wink. Easy charm and wit, ladies with blue hair loved him like a son. On tours of historic buildings downtown he knew every architect but couldn’t name what he wanted. Words escaped me too. We lied about our first meeting. We lied to our friends. To each other. One night he put his hand on my cheek told me not to worry. My skin is the wind, his hand a weathervane. I can’t remember why I was upset. I can’t remember what he said, what solace he named, what shame he didn’t. He walks backwards in my dreams. He never looks down. His hands offer this house or that. I walk towards him. A tour of my old neighborhood: this garden planted by an oil baron, this church rebuilt twice. My coy guide, where are we going? When will we arrive? What will we call that place?