My father built biceps working for US Steel
smelting iron in heat that humbled men.
Now I could break his arm
over my knee, brittle as kindling.
My father used to let me walk up his body
balancing my hands on his fingertips
till I flew from his shoulders. They began to sag
after my mother passed. Rising at night, no moon out,
she collapsed in the dark and never woke
as once my father fell when a clot in his head
tossed him down. He speaks of my mother
rubbing his back with eucalyptus oil and saves hair
from her brush, strands he wraps in kleenex.
At night with his whiskey, facing Jeopardy, my father
drifts off to Kargasok.
In the Russian mountains women live to be 105.
So do their men, eating dried cod with mushroom tea,
making love last forever.
Editor’s Note: The title of this poem carries the weight of multiple meanings, but this is not apparent until the emotional punch of the last few lines.