Pencil sketch in a stuttered hand,
or photograph in softest focus:
my father, chin tilted, staged remnants
of a smile, as though whoever captured the image
preserved the moment his lips fell
back toward familiar grimace. His glasses,
impossibly thick, bend his hopeful eyes
into a look of hopeless confusion.
His Sunday suit, pressed, seems fuzzy,
his dark tie wobbly. The neutral background
reveals nothing of the world.
This reproduction of his senior photo—
the yearbook since lost to a flooded basement—
makes clear that in vibrant markets
he might flourish, but the only certainty
is that he will flounder when surroundings
turn volatile. He doesn’t look like a candidate
for Vietnam, his eyesight too poor
even for infantry, the flap of skin
beneath his neck a sign that he is mature
too early. In a few years, my mother
will notice the speculative appeal of a man
below investment grade. Of course
he will default on all promises
and subsequent debt obligations,
but here, not quite solid, carbon copy
of a mimeograph, he has yet to disappoint,
so we have him in a spare black frame
next to a bowling trophy he once won.
He knocked down pin after pin.