For Walter Butts
The fathers are waiting with their cigarettes and big stomachs for us to arrive. The place where they live does not have time, only space, and they fill it with talks of shortstops and bars, drill sergeants, meals remembered from the days of appetite. Worn jokes about drinking too much and who cares if smoking takes a few years off your life since those are the last years anyway? They talk of their sons, joggers, salad eaters, their strange music and soft hands, the angular jargon of their professions (not jobs). Most will nod, say grudgingly that the kids seemed to come out all right after the crazy stuff with drugs and hair. One will admit he laughed when his son said the kids were driving him crazy. If there is an afterlife, it brings reconciliation for the ones too busy for such weight and balance in the days everyone went about the business of breathing. Sons wake up knowing what fathers fell asleep knowing. Each morning tugs them awake, whispering what must be done as soon as his foot touches the cold floor and he stands, a man in the center of a house full of people, all asleep, trusting him to do the things he promised.