Hilary S. Jacqmin

Before the Fall


My parents split their rare meals out.
At Durgin-Park, they shared brown bread; brown rice
was all they'd eat at Corners of the Mouth.
But when they bought a house in Winter Hill

for $15K, they splurged on Western frappés
at Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage, sure
their triple-decker days were done. That June,
my father, farmer-tanned, would dig the look-

out cellar deep. He'd clip his hippie 'fro
and buy a Squareback, powder-blue;
on fellowship at MIT, he'd learn
to calculate the crest of surface waves.

Meanwhile, my redheaded mother, fattening up
with me, outgrew her Pucci wedding dress.
She sketched street maps inlaid with rubyliths
or (badly) hands and feet. When picked to paint

a mural at the Porter T, she pulled
her pumps off and climbed ten stories down into
the underground. Inside that floodlit hole
where the Red Line wouldn't rattle till '84,

she thought about Fellini's Roma—how
the subway diggers let in modern air, which peeled
the frescos from a peristylium's
uncovered walls, pale Roman faces blown

to ancient dust. Back then, my parents' life
was potluck, muscular, and charmed. Who knew,
at sixty, my father would ratchet like a cog, his face
fixed plaster, the Parkinson's displacing both

his klieg-light mind and his mechanic limbs?
These days, my mother sorts the pills
that he'll spit out. She talks about divorce.
Their household gods have fled. Their basement seeps.