My Parents’ Monte Cristo

That tiny apartment kitchen was their world,
was where they slumped in tar-yellow light
so many evenings, turning over the past.

There was a glass table, where their smoke swirled
above crucifix and radio, the dogs always at her right.
That kitchen of roaches and Ritz crackers was their world.

There was her cheek’s long scar from when he hurled
a vase into a nightmare’s Korean rifle fire late one night.
They couldn’t help themselves. They swam in the past,

in betrayals, in two lost houses, in dead dreams purled
into a patchwork of hard stares and beer-can blight,
that apartment all they had in this world.

Long days of running shipyard wire unfurled
into nighttime swears and silence thick as a dam, and as tight.
Like O’Neill and his Tyrones, they crashed into the past

as darkness came, and illness, as their children twirled
year by year into orbits as fixed as their own, despite
bedroom vows to spin free of that kitchen, that world,
to be the ones to turn finally from the past.