When the bombs rained,
my uncle was sneaking out for a smoke
to avoid the eyes of his father
who forbade him from smoking.

And that was how he happened to live. And lived still,
twenty-five years later, though the doctor said he would, in a year or so,
die of stomach cancer.
Maestro! The blood of longevity lives in you.

And grandmother,
not minding the expensive porcelain her husband gave away
in whims of empathy and pain,
or his money from gambling bets

won too easily, wit for wit.
Gambling blood that lives in uncle, my mother, her son.
Poor grandfather, your automatic writer tells us in trances and portents
that you are serving a twenty-year sentence in the land of no name…

Blindfolded, he writes in your hand;
he speaks in your voice, you would hardly believe it.
What sins, what crimes? See how your daughter rushes home to fast, pray,
beg deities their forgiveness.

You can tell it to me in the rain,
and I will let it glide through my hands and seep into the brick’s bronzed cracks.
Let me speak for you when we are walking together in the yard
in case the others might not hear you.

Whisper it to your wife, and she will pass it to me
in riddles from memory
as she stands still in your green guest room,
her shadow falling like some tree in late afternoon, sun slicing through it.

Bearing the load of living longer, of living too long.
Ninety-four and still talking to silence, to coronations of carambolas
and pommeracs in the yard. To your portrait on the wall,
as if you are there, expecting some reply.