The Silent Garden
Michael Passafiume

And you keep thinking
about your father—
yes, yes, the drunken nights,
too numerous to count,
the faulty pin that didn’t
always prevent his anger
from detonating,
cigarettes smoked with a zeal
he was too ashamed to exhibit
toward anything or anyone else,
sadness & confusion
behind that smokescreen, as if
—like the rest of us—
he’d inherited a fistful of keys
& not been told which doors
they opened, which they locked,
or if they even existed.

But the man could grow a garden,
weather and wildlife permitting,
each season bringing
fava beans, plum tomatoes, hot peppers,
so much basil & mint you couldn’t
give it all away.

And he appreciated a good laugh,
eyes tearing, dentures threatening
to launch themselves into orbit.
And he could watch television
like a pro—John Wayne & Clint Eastwood
movies, Hawaii Five-O, Mission: Impossible,
Taxi, Barney Miller, hour after hour
of CNN, and the occasional Yankees game
thrown in for good measure—
until the night & its subsequent
nightmares came for him,
sheets twisted by writhing legs,
moans loud enough to wake you
from your own tortured slumber.

And later, after all the warning signs
& doctors’ proclamations had
been ignored,
the cancer came for him too,
& there was nothing left to do
but wait in silence, hours creaking by
like a pair of arthritic knees
attempting to summit Everest—
so much silence,
so many unspoken truths
you couldn’t give them
all away.