Evenings in the family
by Marge Piercy
My father sat in his chair fenced
in smoke from his briar pipeóhis
chair, only his. We never touched
it except to dust or beat
the upholstery with a Fuller brush.
Sometimes he lit a Lucky Strike.
The ashtray had a bronze grey
hound leaping for a handle,
a pillar that rose from the floor
topped with heaps of ashes, butts
it was my job to clean every
afternoon when I came home
from school before, tucking myself
inside the doors of the big radio
listening to Tom Mix and Jack
Armstrong the All American
Boy. Father joked with the men
he worked with, always popularó
the shop steward, the guy you
would want along drinking,
fishing. At home, he frowned
in silence, reading the paper
cover to cover until he threw
it down. Then my mother
scanned the news and want ads.
I remember him always in a cloud
of smoke like a veil protecting
him from us, from demands,
from my motherís desire to talk
from the sight of me,
the unsatisfactory offspring,
wrong sex, wrong religion,
too skinny, didnít smirk or flirt.
The paper was a wall.
The smoke, a second skin.
Copyright © 2007 by Marge Piercy.