My Brother's First Girlfriend - Poem by Don Tiedemann
Her father owned a row home
on Sollers Point road
just like all the other
row homes owned
by the hourly working men
in the steel-making town
of Dundalk. A Summer evening
and she and my big brother, as
always, are there in the front room,
silent in the lamplight and still shy
in each others presence.
As it darkens, boys from
the county ball fields cycle
past. Next door the man laid off
by the shipyard watches the light
fall and strokes his dog. He has
no qualms living on the dues
he paid for thirty five years.
Late season fireflies rise
at their leisure from grass
grown shaggy in a week
of rain. The wind brings a faint hum
and a clanging from the mills
at Sparrows Point. Otherwise
it is quiet when the southeast
sky explodes from hot slag dumped
in Bear Creek. Dishes rattle
and the sky glows perdition
red. Noone even looks up.
At home life plays out on
the screen porch surrounded by
forsythia and lit
by the blue-gray light of
the TV. My father opens
his third pack of the day.
My mother is next to him.
She hates the smoke but does
not yet hate her second marriage.
My younger brother is inside practicing
Good Night Ladies on the trumpet.
He does not yet hate his life.
I am headed home riding on
the downhill part of Sollers Point
Road, easy in Summer that
asks for so little. As the silhouettes
of my brother and the girl
are easy in the window and
their quiet proximity. As
all Dundalk is easy in the flow
of molten steel and union money.
Memory can contain paradise
but not the loss of it.
The shipyards are rusting monuments.
The steel mills have crossed the sea.
None of us can say just when
the story turned, when our lives
began to burn, when time hit
the ditch, but that Summer in
Dundalk came before. It was
the Garden. We were still there.
All of us. In the beginning.
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