For a big man, you left a small footprint,
on your shoulders people created arabesques,
formed pyramids as I watched from the edge of a plaid blanket
knowing you were my father, the hand-balancer.
Monday through Saturday you made orthopedic shoes
near Second Avenue in New York City, now divided
between a tarot reader and a pet grooming shop,
a doggie painted on the window wearing a red, white, and blue hat.
But what reminds me of you more than anything,
more than the two packs of Marlboros
you smoked years before your first operation,
was the smell of glue you used to join
leather arches to a metal backing, thick, goopy stuff.
Smelling it could make a person stand up to every inhale
as it bullied its way to the lungs. Over the years,
the glue cooled and formed its own container
transforming your brush into something beyond a brush,
bristles splayed and petrified into a salute.
On my hands and knees, far from the low tides
of Long Island sound, I paint concrete tiles for a garden project
with the same stuff that sticks to my gloves.
I think about you these forty-three years gone,
each stroke, a burning.