My Father’s Voice

Sarah Sword

I am waiting up for the 2 a.m. train,

I am imagining my father’s voice.

He is always traveling, he is always in motion,

he is never still, he is never quiet, he is always quiet

when he speaks.

He was always talking to me,

he was always driving me back and forth

to Boston, to Washington, to Chicago.

He was always revealing his details,

details like his ink strokes on my pencil drawings:

flowerpots with Impatient Lucys or African Violets

on porches of my sketched houses.

I was always falling asleep in the car – his voice

puts me to sleep. He always stopped the car

in the gaps in Pennsylvania to peel away slivers

of mica in the rock highway walls, limestone,

quartz, all named and beautiful to him.

We stopped because he could not name

a mysterious wildflower at road’s edge.

He had to photograph, to name, to say, to know.

His voice! It is too quiet. We have a bad connection

between here and overseas, no straight phone lines

matching our houses. He is counting the dollar fifty minutes

he speaks with me and he cuts it short, and besides,

there is a time delay.

I am trying to remember all the things he told me

in the car while smoke from his forbidden pipe

steamed out the window of the boxcar Volvo.

I am waiting because when I cannot sleep,

I love to imagine how he must have sounded

when he recited to the Torah at his Bar Mitzvah,

to remember how he sounded

when he read the Kaddish for his mother

in faded Hebrew.

I am listening for the hush of motion.

I am waiting for the 2 a.m. train

because it sounds like my father’s voice.