The End of the Line                                            

            On a good day
            Dad talked little
            Whether mom complained or not
            The day he took me out of school
            To go with him to work
            His chin was in the air
            And he moved his lips a lot
            But wasn’t saying anything
            That I could hear
            He squeezed my hand
            Especially when we crossed the street,
            And held it tight until we made it
            To the very first subway car
            He let me walk up to the window at the front
            Alone, and peer ahead into the dark
            Like the conductor
            As we sped and swayed and screeched
            And stopped and sped again
            To leave the tunnel
            And emerge from underground
            To lurch into the final stop
            The sudden sunlight hurt my eyes
            And dad had grabbed my hand again
            As if I’d trip and stumble through the space
            Between the platform and the track
            Without his help
            Which was ridiculous, I thought
            Before I felt enough
            To feel offended we were at
            The factory and dad had given me a kiss
            And plopped me down inside the office
            With a pretty secretary who chewed gum
            And told me everything would be all right
            And offered me a piece
            When dad came back
            A big guy with a beard was at his side
            Who looked like he would growl
            At me before he shook my hand
            I didn’t mind that his was greasy
            But I saw the phoney smile 
            That was plastered overtop the frown
            And bit my lip when he began
            To muss my hair
            It was a while
            Again before we left,
            The boss and dad
            Just standing talking baseball
            While the secretary winked at me
            As far as I could tell
            My father wasn’t any angrier than other dads
            Although he had a temper
            That was triggered by a hair,
            The only problem being
            You never knew whose hair it was
            Or where it came from,
            Not to mention when
            Lots of little things
            You’d hardly notice
            Riled him up –
            Like people giving dirty looks
            Or worse, ignoring him –
            But dad was whistling on the ride back home
            Mom hugged me at the door
            As we arrived and then
            The phone rang only once
            Before my father answered it
            It must have been good news
            Because that night
            I had as much dessert as I could want
            And nearly more than I could eat
            At bedtime mom and dad had pinched my cheeks
            So often I began to think
            I’d done something important
            Besides staying on my feet
            Until we reached what both my parents
            Figured might have been
            The end of the line


            Emanuel E. García, The Virtues of Calamity, One Hundred Poems2013