I wear a gray sweater not unlike the one
my father used to wear, his beard beginning
to hang from his face in his student years,
dew pooling on the sleeves. I see him
walking the autumned campus with a cone
of chrysanthemums flaring in his hand,
swaddled in newspaper wrapping, each petal
slanted a little, as memory is. It’s easier
to go back this far, past the marriages,
past mornings of dressing for work
in the dark, his voice slick with caffeine,
mud on the front lawn clinging
to each jaded step. I’d rather remember
this sapling: my father, nineteen,
knocking on a woman’s green door,
and the way the self emerges in the noon-lit
stillness just before it hears the word yes.
In this one life with its boundaries
set by snow, its laws cemented by air,
all we get is a moment to think
that we are permitted more than a moment.
I bought it, this cheap sweater the color
of sleep, a little worn at the shoulders.
It is not beautiful like the past
but like the past I wear it.

More from Matthew Gellman:

Black Sand,” a poem