"I spot a young barn owl / standing by the road / peering at his own reflection in a puddle"
-- from After the Rain by Dan Gerber
for my brother Sal
He drinks beer on the hardwood kitchen floor
of the small house in San Francisco where we grew up
squeezing the neck of a junk guitar
and howling one lonesome refrain after another.
slapping each one down like a barroom bet
until the desperate ghosts of sad women
and angry men show up like uncollected debts.
I sit across from him on the floor leaning against
a cupboard filled with cooking pots and frying pans,
the ones we beat with our small hands years
before we knew the words to any outlaw songs.
My sense of what is wrong threatens to save us.
It welcomes all the hearts we had a hand in breaking
including our own until the voices we hear
are the wails of a jukebox song no one ever selects.
He keeps singing about just passing through
like some freight train going everywhere too fast.
I want to throw my arms around us both
and look after us like brothers who know better.
(Acknowledgement: Paul Fericano, Solo Novo, Vol. 2, 2012)