When my father died, it fell to me
to clean his Fairport Harbor Ohio condo,
to box up belongings of two lives;
his, lost recently, and my mother’s,
taken years earlier, but still
whispering in empty rooms,
fabrics and fragrances of furniture,
photo albums, lace fashioned
to protect arm rests, left in place,
after she left him to fold
her clothes, cook, sleep alone,
in their ghostly bed, and awaken
each morning to unfamiliar silence
and memories of missing touch,
from lives together for forever years.
The boxes were delivered flat.
I slotted them into squares,
visualizing arrangement of remnants
into cardboard, what to keep,
what to discard.
The bedroom had been the hardest
to desecrate, the underwear
and socks drawer, discovering,
beneath old newspaper liner,
three one-hundred dollar notes.
In the hall closet, where war rifles rested,
were ten boxes of ammunition
and a single roll of 8mm.
My father carried his Kodak slide camera
everywhere, in its small brown leather case,
to the Ardennes, to Normandy, to Korea,
imprinting glimpses of strange
and wonderful lands
and horrible times.
Home from service, slide nights
were usual family entertainment,
a cone of magic light, full of dust,
exciting the wall, Dad narrating.
I was allowed to stack
the little cardboard windows,
each a single film-frame,
in round carousels,
his remote ratcheting them
with military precision.
The 8mm was an anomaly
no one knew existed.
Projector gone, just a single reel,
in a time-weathered box.
I divided up the found money,
and money from sold guns, with siblings,
but kept the secret 8mm to myself.
I boxed up possessions,
some went to the tip, others to the second-hand.
I said something for the church service,
ate Italian food at the reception,
and stood quietly for his burial,
while a soldier folded a flag.
Back in Melbourne, I unpacked
my suitcases, forgetting the film.
It was tucked there, under my own socks.
No one owned these kind of projectors anymore,
so I sent the fragile footage away to be digitalized.
The USB I got back fit into my wallet.
In my darkened bedroom, computer light
brought grandparents back, my mother
and father, an array of cousins,
in splendid Sunday attire, there
for my 1965 High School graduation.
Everyone kissed everyone full on the lips,
something now rarely done amongst relatives.
The unknown video technician
had inserted sound under the film -
evocative guitar, and Cat Stevens singing,
Where Do the Children Play?
Music of the seventies,
under a lost family from the sixties,
reanimated here, in the 21st Century,
restoring, in flickering forgotten childhood,
a father’s luminous farewell letter.