In Bahia
by Rodney Terich Leonard

Sober for most of the day,
November 11, 2010,
Paulo Sergio sang "Happy Birthday"
to me in Portuguese.
I've got that left-eye look again.
I've turned mercurial, I'm told.
The poem about my dad and I
is a textured landscape with unchanging lines;
memory catalogues first-hurts in slants.
Forgiveness, hill that it is, isn't the hard part.

At 20, he helped make these broad shoulders of mine.
Mom got pregant at a Birmingham motel
while Sam Cooke sang "That's Where It's At."
The details and nerve of what we remember.
And it's somewhat a ritual
usually after the second gin I
go into a fast-forward mood
and slant my head to recall
how my dad raised a family
down the street and not me.
Last time we spoke in 1996,
the day I got some bad news
he mumbled something
over a glass of Scotch and milk
about how my ways water-down his lastname.

Perhaps I do turn mercurial
and the past does creep wildly in my eyes
and forty,unfit for fools, arches fewer expectations on my brow.

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