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.