Now that you’re dead, well and truly, I can love you
the way I never could when you were alive:
I can admire your once-upon-a-time dashing good looks,
the way dark hair curled over your clear brow, your
penetrating gaze and dimpled movie-star smile, and your
luxurious waxed Zapata mustache.
At your funeral, Lizzie said, looking at old photos:
“Wow, Grandpa Schorr was a total babe,”
and even your wistful baby pictures excited in us all
nothing but sympathy and a little good heartache
for what we knew would be a hard and lonely life.
Now I can admit that you were an artist with the camera,
that -- looking through your telephoto lens --
you captured souls --
dreams of escape, achingly exiled moments, pleas
for recognition, for scraps of fellow feeling or
just a moment of human kindness
that somehow you must have provided.
Now I can thank you for taking us out of the States,
for teaching us another language,
for pushing us past the usual, for making us
despise that usual, and even
for forcing us into pain and sometimes shame
as strange strangers in a land that
smiled at us but didn’t really want us.
Like you, it made us stronger, forged our anxieties
Now I can admit that you loved us all
the same, the best you could,
broken as you were by your bent life, your
secrets, and that you loved me
as your own child,
because (as you might’ve said) I belonged to you,
you’d put your defiant stamp on me,
you’d clipped and twisted and pruned me
the way you thought any good father should.
You’d given me your name,
and defended me against my enemies,
swelled with pride when I won awards and
ranted and railed against me when I failed.
And when we’d all abandoned you
to your rat-infested apartment,
when you were slowly dying,
lost to the bottle, drifting in false
memories and ancient accusations,
writing down what was left to you
in scraps and fevered dreams,
you still loved me enough
to write my name,to say (to my shame) that I was good.